Health Services in the UK

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1 Health Services in the UK For general health advice, there are many resources available, both on and offline. A vast amount of information, including a 'Health A-Z', 'Medical Dictionary' and 'Symptom Checker' can be found at NHS Choices ( Pharmacists (chemists) in the UK are very knowledgeable and can advise on most minor conditions that you might experience. Some of the larger pharmacists, such as Boots ( and Lloyds Pharmacy ( also provide health screening and services. If you would prefer you speak to someone in person about any symptoms experienced, the NHS Direct can be contacted on 111 at any time of day or night, 365 days a year. ( ges/nhs-111.aspx) When you call the NHS, they'll ask you to provide some basic information, including details of any medication you may be taking. They will then assess your problem and advise you on the best course of action. If you re feeling unwell at the time of your call, you may be told how you can look after yourself at home, or they may recommend seeing a pharmacist. If it s something more serious, you may be advised to see another health professional, such as a General Practitioner (GP). If the problem is very serious, they can also help you to access the ambulance service. In an emergency, call 999 or 112 immediately. All permanent residents of the UK have the right to healthcare, whether emergency treatment or on-going care is needed. This is mainly provided by our public health service, the National Health Service (NHS). The National Health Service is free at the point of use for the patient though there are charges associated with eye tests, dental care, prescriptions, and many aspects of personal care. It is paid for from general taxation. Services include hospitals, doctors, dentists, chemists, opticians and ambulances. Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. There may be charges for some NHS services, for example, your dental treatment, and you may be entitled to help with these charges. Any free NHS treatment you receive, or any help with NHS costs, does not affect your immigration status. If you are entitled to it, you can obtain free treatment immediately. There is no qualifying period. Treatment which is always free of charge Some hospital treatment is free of charge for everyone who needs it, regardless of how long they have been or intend to stay in the UK. This is:- W: Page 1 of 5

2 treatment for accidents and emergencies as an outpatient in a hospital s accident and emergency department. Emergency treatment in a walk-in centre is also free of charge (England and Wales only). However, if you are referred to an outpatient clinic or admitted to hospital from an accident and emergency department, you will be charged compulsory psychiatric treatment treatment for certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, malaria, meningitis and pandemic influenza. testing for the HIV virus and counselling following a test are both free of charge, but any necessary subsequent treatment and medicines may have to be paid for family planning services. Who can receive all NHS treatment free of charge Some people from abroad can receive all NHS hospital treatment free of charge. If you are entitled to free NHS hospital treatment, your spouse, civil partner and dependent child(ren) will also be able to receive free treatment, but only if they live with you permanently in the UK. You can receive free NHS hospital treatment if you:- have been living legally in the UK for at least 12 months when you seek treatment, and did not come to the UK for private medical treatment. Temporary absences from the UK of up to three months are ignored have come to the UK to take up permanent residence, for example, if you are a former UK resident who has returned from abroad, or if you have been granted leave to enter or remain as a spouse have come to the UK to work, either as an employee or self-employed person (this does not include people on short business trips) normally work in the UK, but are temporarily working abroad, have at least 10 years continuous residence in the UK, and have been abroad for less than 5 years (however, if you are studying abroad you are not entitled to free NHS treatment) are receiving a UK war disablement pension or war widows pension are an asylum seeker or have been granted exceptional leave to remain or refugee status. Proof of your immigration status from the Home Office may be required. In England and Scotland, if you're refused asylum, you do not have the right to free treatment if you have temporary admission. However, if you're a failed asylum seeker who was receiving a course of treatment, that course of treatment should continue until it is finished without you being asked to pay for it. In Wales, there are plans to change the rules and you might get free treatment. If you re asked to pay, get advice about how to challenge the charge have been identified as having been trafficked from abroad or are believed to have been trafficked from abroad are imprisoned in the UK or detained by UK immigration authorities W: Page 2 of 5

3 are a UK state pensioner who spends up to six months a year living in another European Economic Area (EEA*) state, but are not a resident of that state are working in another EEA* country, or in Switzerland, but are paying compulsory UK national insurance contributions are a student following a course of study which lasts at least six months, or is substantially funded by the UK government. If you are uncertain about whether you are entitled to NHS treatment, your local GP should be able to advise you. Alternately, the Citizen s Advice Bureau ( provides an excellent advice service across a wide range of subjects, including healthcare. It is a good idea to take out medical insurance if you are not entitled to free or subsidised healthcare. If not, treatment could work out to be very expensive. Visitors who can receive NHS hospital treatment free of charge You and your dependants are entitled to free NHS hospital treatment if your need for it arose during your visit to the UK. A medical opinion may be needed in order to decide if treatment should be provided free of charge. You have the right to free NHS hospital treatment if:- you are a national of an European Economic Area (EEA*) country, living in an EEA* state or Switzerland, or a refugee or stateless person living in an EEA* state or Switzerland, or you are a non-eea* national who lives in an EU state and pays national insurance contributions there you normally live abroad, and are receiving a UK state pension, and have lived in the UK in the past for at least ten years you have lived in the UK for at least ten years in the past, but now live in an EEA* state, or in a non-eea* state with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement you are a national, or a resident of certain non-eea* countries, with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement. [*EEA countries are the European Union countries and Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.] In addition, people from some countries can get free hospital treatment if they have been referred to the UK for that treatment, under the terms of the reciprocal agreement. There are also special arrangements with certain countries which enable people from outside the UK to get free treatment. The Department of Health can give details of countries with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement and for which there are special arrangements. W: Page 3 of 5

4 How hospitals decide who should pay Hospital staff will ask you whether you have lived legally in the UK for the past 12 months when you arrive, and whether you intend to stay permanently. The hospital will also ask for this information about your spouse or civil partner. If your dependant child is the patient you will be asked to provide these details about yourself. If you or one of these people have lived legally in the UK for the past 12 months or intend to stay permanently, you may be entitled to free hospital treatment. You may be asked to provide documents, for example a passport, to show that you are in the UK legally. If it is not clear whether you are entitled to free treatment, you will be interviewed more fully. Documentation and a medical opinion may be required. In Northern Ireland, there is a more simple procedure to identify who should pay for treatment, and the above process may not apply. You may be asked questions to confirm your residency. Once the hospital has established that you must pay for treatment, you will usually be asked to pay the full cost in advance, unless emergency treatment is required immediately. If you cannot pay in advance, the hospital will ask for a written undertaking to pay. If you cannot provide proof that you can afford to pay, treatment will be refused and you may be offered the chance to be treated privately. Accessing NHS treatment To access NHS treatment, you will need to register with a General Practitioner (GP) in your catchment area. It is up to the GP or dentist whether to accept you onto their list of NHS patients. They may accept you on their list if you are living in the UK, but they don't have to. A GP may, in practice, be flexible in deciding whether you are resident in the UK, in order to qualify for free treatment. You will usually have to show that your stay in the UK has some degree of permanence and stability. If you are a visitor in the UK for less than three months, a GP may accept you as a temporary resident. Otherwise, a GP may offer to accept you as a private patient and you will have to pay for treatment. NB - Even if you are accepted onto a GP or dentist's list of NHS patients, you have to pay charges for some things like prescription charges (the current prescription charge is 8.05) and dental treatment. To find your closest GP surgery, dentist, hospital, opticians, or other NHS healthcare provider, simply type in your postcode at the following website: What to do if you need treatment W: Page 4 of 5

5 If you are sick, you will need to make an appointment at your GP surgery and, depending on the seriousness of your condition, you will be attended by a doctor or a nurse. If necessary, your GP will refer you onto a specialist at a hospital. In case of minor health issues or minor injuries you can also go to a walk-in centre (generally in the centre of towns and cities, and usually open from early morning to late evening, seven days a week). You do not require a prior appointment and you will be attended by a nurse. Waiting times can be long. There are also many private doctors, dentists and opticians for those willing to pay. We would still, however, recommend everyone to register with a GP locally, as this gives you access to the full range of medical services available locally. W: Page 5 of 5

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