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About the National Health Service

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is the state health service. After paying a health service charge of £150 per year as part of your visa application process you will be able to access free NHS health treatment.

The NHS is also available to students from countries with reciprocal healthcare agreements, such as many European countries. European students should apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in their home country before travelling to the UK. Please see the UKCISA website for further information.

How to register with a local doctor

When you arrive at your place of study you should register with a local doctor (‘GP’, General Practitioner) as soon as possible. These doctors are trained and experienced in diagnosing a wide range of health problems. They are based in local offices (called ‘GP Surgeries’) or Health Centres. Do not wait until you are ill. We recommend that you register with a doctor close to where you live. To find your nearest GP please visit: Find a GP – NHS (

To register, you will need to visit the doctor’s surgery or clinic during consulting hours, taking a letter from your institution as proof that you are a student, along with your passport and any loose immigration documents. You should ask to be added to the list of National Health Service (NHS) patients. This means you will not have to pay a fee to visit the doctor. Most doctors’ surgeries have female as well as male doctors, and if you prefer you can ask to be put on a woman doctor’s list. If you only want to be seen by a woman doctor, you may need to say so whenever you make an appointment.

To avoid paying the full (private) cost of treatment make sure the doctor knows you want treatment from the NHS.


If a doctor recommends a medicine, they may write a prescription for you. The prescription authorises a pharmacist to give you a particular medicine. Some medicines are available only with a prescription. You can get the medicine from the pharmacy counter at chemist’s shops, or in the pharmacy department of larger shops and supermarkets.

In England, most people need to pay for prescriptions, except the following people who have free prescriptions:

  • aged under 19 and studying full-time;
  • aged 60 or over;
  • pregnant, or have had a baby within the last 12 months and have a valid exemption certificate;
  • with a listed medical condition and an exemption certificate.
  • children under 16

You may also be able to get free or reduced cost prescriptions on the grounds of low income. For further information on this, see the NHS website.

How to register with a Dentist

You should try to have your teeth checked by a dentist at least once a year. We recommend that you register with a dentist close to where you live. To find your nearest dentist visit: Find a dentist – NHS (

You should ask the dentist whether they accept National Health Service (NHS) patients – many do not.  The dentist may wish to conduct the same process for checking your entitlement to NHS care as a General Practitioner (GP) would.  If you already have a GP, then the dental practice should contact the GP to ensure that they have undertaken an entitlement check. If accepted by the dentist as an NHS patient, you will need to give the dentist the NHS number on your medical card.

If you are entitled to NHS treatment, you may still have to make a contribution towards the cost of your dental treatment. If you are not entitled to NHS treatment, or the dentist you choose does not take NHS patients (some dentists will only accept private patients), you will have to pay for the full cost of your treatment.

You may be able to get free dental treatment from dental students at a teaching hospital. This applies even if you are not entitled to NHS treatment.

If you are eligible for free prescriptions, you will also be eligible for free dental treatment.

For more information on health and health care, including opticians and other specific health issues, please visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs.