The basics
THE UK: Essentials

Essentials: Health and insurance in the UK

Learn about health cover and possessions insurance for international students in the UK.

Health and insurance in the UK

There are a lot of things to worry about when moving abroad to a new country, like what happens if you fall sick, or what if your prize possessions are stolen? Unfortunately, in everyday life these things can actually happen, so it is important to plan for every eventuality – just in case.


Healthcare in the UK

If you’re entering the UK and your course lasts longer than 6 months, you will automatically be entitled to the same standards of healthcare as a UK resident on the NHS. The NHS is the UK’s National Healthcare Service which provides free medical treatment as and when they need it.

When you arrive to study in the UK, you should be able to provide health certificated proving that you have had the required injections to enter the country. These will differ from country to country, and those arriving at the border from a high-risk TB area will also be expected to produce a clear chest x-ray. These documentations should be held in your hand-luggage as you will be expected to hand them over when passing through immigration.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, then you should also have a list of your prescriptions and a full medical report translated into English from your registered doctor at home. This will not only be beneficial when passing through customs, but will also be of use when you register with a UK doctor.

Upon arrival in the UK you should take all of these documents to a doctor’s surgery and register with your local GP. Take a copy of your rental agreement as well as your student ID. After filling out some forms, you will receive an NHS card. You should keep this on you at all times.

Your local GP will be your contact point for the majority of non-urgent medical ailments.

The phone number for emergency services is 999.





Breaking down the NHS

The NHS is broken down into many strands, and where you seek treatment will very much depend upon your ailments.

GP (General Practitioner) services – Your GP is most likely to be your first point of call when you are feeling unwell. If you have a non-emergency illness then you should go to your GP for advice. GPs are given basic training in a wide range of problems and are skilled at diagnosis, particularly in the early stages of a condition. Your GP may then decide to refer you to a specialist hospital department for further investigation.

Minor Injuries Unit - Most hospitals will have a Minor Injuries Unit where you should go if you’re suffering from a non-urgent injury that requires immediate attention. A Minor Injuries Unit will deal with problems such as sprains, cuts and minor burns. If you are already taking medication for a pre-existing condition, and the member of staff on duty prescribes you any antibiotic or pain relief medication then it is always best to inform them that you are taking this medication.

Casualty/Emergency Department – All major city hospitals will have a department that is specially equipped to deal with emergencies. Unless you have a serious condition that needs treating immediately, then hopefully you won’t have to use these facilities.

Pharmacy – If you’re suffering from an illness such as a cold or even flu, then there are a number of over-the-counter remedies available from local pharmacies. If you’re uncertain of what treatments are available to you, then it is always worth talking to a trained pharmacist.


What will the NHS not cover?

There will be a cost attached to the majority of UK prescriptions which averages out at £6.85 per item on the prescription. However there are a certain number of conditions or terms where medication is free of charge. This information will be available from your local pharmacy.

Similarly, there may also be occasions where you need to request a sick note (for proof of illness) or to undergo dental treatment or eye tests. These services are not covered by the NHS.


For more information about what to do if you fall ill while abroad as well as what you should take with you, read our guide to health and sickness abroad.



Insurance in the UK

While health insurance is not essential for foreign students wishing to study in the UK, it is important to make sure that all of your belongings are covered by insurance in order to avoid the practical and financial difficulties that may occur if they are lost, stolen or broken – all of which can happen when moving your possessions around the world and living in a new place.

A number of universities include insurance in the rental costs for students living in on-campus accommodation. Students can sometimes be added to their parents’ home insurance cover. Both options are worth investigating but for foreign students it is often easier to take out your own contents insurance from a specialist company such as Endsleigh. There will usually be an insurance provider in attendance during your Freshers' Week (usually with a stand or table at your Freshers' Fair where a representative can speak to you). Your bank may also have a range of possessions insurance plans too, which can be easier as you are already a customer.

If you have a small accident or a small possession is stolen, then think very carefully before making a claim on your insurance. If the damage isn’t urgent, then evaluate the impact that a claim may have on your insurance premiums which you'll have to pay from thereon. Also ensure that you carefully read the terms and conditions of any documents you receive before signing, checking that you are covered for everything. Also make sure that you are following the terms of your cover in case you do need to make a claim so your inusrance company can not refuse to pay out because you've not met a certain condition.

If you’re living in a house with a number of other people, you should each have your own insurance policy. You should check that your paperwork is all up to date and that it is located in a safe place.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to make a claim!



Start your journey to studying in the UK - browse popular and highly ranked institutions, read guides and search for courses in the UK.


Read more:

'The British higher education system...simplified'

'Tuition fees in the UK'

'Applying to study in the UK'

'Applying for a UK student visa'

'Student accommodation in the UK'


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About Author

Health and insurance in the UK

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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