The Healthcare System In The United Kingdom


The NHS, or National Health Service in the UK in known as one of the top healthcare systems in the world.

It is what is called a ‘residence-based’ system, meaning that is you are residing in the UK legally and permanently you are entitled to access the NHS and funding. As a general rule, if you are a non-European citizen you have to have an Indefinite Leave To Remain (ILR) status to be seen as a resident. Normally it is easier for those from Europe and Switzerland to have an ILR status. Outside of this, if you have lived in the country for more than 6 months you are considered an “overseas visitor” and will be able to access the NHS after paying a surcharge. Your residential status is not taken into consideration if you are in need of emergency care in the UK and in the case of an emergency, it is free.

Hospitals, overall, provide a good level of care. Having said that, prepare for long waits and some difficult to get appointments. There is the option of private hospitals for specialized care. You will be seen quicker but it is expensive, so unless you have private health insurance it is normally avoided.

Public healthcare in the UK

When you arrive in the UK you will want to first register with a local GP because you will need an appointment with them in order to refer you to specialists provided by the NHS.

It is worth understanding that the NHS covers all countries in the UK but each country has its own branch of the NHS. Access to the NHS is generally the same but policies may vary slightly, for example, a prescribed medication might be subsidized in one country and fully funded in another, so check with the NHS website for the particular country you live in.

Private healthcare in the UK

There are copious numbers of private hospitals across the UK but Harley Street in central London has some of the best specialists.

The top complaint of many regarding public healthcare in the UK is the long wait for both specialists and dental care. This can be avoided if you have the money to pay for private care and the treatment is advantageous.

Health insurance in the UK

Choosing to take out private health insurance will allow you to be seen faster than on with the public system. If you travel a lot or plan to return to your native country, you could look for one on the insurance providers who offer international coverage.

It is not compulsory for employers to provide medical insurance but some may contribute towards private healthcare. It is normal practise for expats to pay for their own insurance. Ensure you do plenty of research to find a policy that is suited to your needs. A comparison will help you narrow down the numerous options.

Medicines and pharmacies in the UK

Don’t worry if people are confused when you ask for a pharmacy, the Brit’s prefer the word Chemists! You will have no issue finding chemists on major high streets and in shopping centers. The UK has popular chains such as Boots and Superdrug that act as a chemist as well as selling beauty products.

It also shouldn’t be difficult getting medicines. If the medicine you require isn’t available most city chemists will be able to order it. Some medicine can be bought over the counter, others you will need a prescription from your GP.

Vaccinations before travelling to the UK

While there are no requirements for particular vaccinations to enter the UK, it is still advisable to keep your routine vaccinations up to date.

Emergency medical services in the UK

If you are unable to make your way to a hospital you can call 999 and an ambulance will be sent to you. If you prefer you can call 112, which is the European emergency number. If the emergency is not as critical, you can call 111.