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THE UK: Subject Guides

Understanding health care in the UK

Moving abroad is very exciting but there is often so much to think about. Healthcare is one of these important things to consider. Find out more about how this works in the UK for international students.

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There is so much to think about when it comes to moving to university. When the stress of the application process is behind you and you’ve calmed down from the excitement of being accepted, it can be worrying to consider everything that needs doing. 


From arranging accommodation to planning your travel on the big move-in day, there is much to think about. Many students also have to consider health insurance depending on where they are coming from and where they are studying.  


How does health insurance work in the UK and what should international students expect? 


The NHS 


If you’re familiar with the UK in any way, or know anyone from there, you may have heard about the NHS. This stands for National Health Service and is the main form of health care for the majority of UK residents.  


It’s a form of government-funded health care and, like in many other countries, is free at the point of use. This means that residents don’t pay for treatment but that the service is completely funded through the tax system.  


As an international student living in the UK, you may be glad to hear that you can register as an NHS patient just like anyone else in the country. This is the case for both non-European Union and European Union students.  


Should you need medical support, you can use the service. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment for a minor issue or an unfortunate visit to the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital, this will all be covered and there will be no direct cost to you. 


Even some things that do cost are significantly reduced when accessed through the NHS. Things like prescriptions and dental appointments are services that you may have to pay a little for but are mainly covered. So when you collect medication, or get your teeth checked, while most of it will be paid for you, a little contribution may be required. 


Private healthcare 


Although the NHS is available to everyone, some in the UK choose to opt for private health care. Much like in places like the US, this is covered mainly by private health insurance and there are a number of providers in the UK that you can join. 


Private health care can also be paid for as and when you need it, but this is often much more expensive than it would be if you had the right insurance.  


If you are coming from a country where you already have health insurance, it’s important to check with your provider whether will be covered when studying abroad. If you are still covered, you will not need to set up further cover when you move to the UK. 


It’s important to note that even those with private health insurance can still access the NHS but must be registered. It may be a good idea to register even if you don’t intend to use the service as you don’t know what you will have access should you find yourself in an emergency situation. 


Support from your university 


If, both upon moving to the UK and before leaving the country, you are confused in any way as to what you have access to, your university is there to help. 


Many universities in the UK have lots of international students starting each year and are therefore used to the questions that you may have. They will be able to point you in the right direction depending on your needs. 


University can be a lot to handle when it comes to everything you need to deal with. Thankfully, if you’re studying in the UK, you can handle the healthcare side of things pretty quickly - all you need to do is register with the NHS. 


Do you want to study in the UK but haven’t found the right course? Take a look at a beginner’s guide to studying there. 

Study in the UK


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