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Healthcare in the UK for International Students

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International students who hold a valid student visa can expect to receive treatments from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS provides free healthcare to UK residents through public funding.


To receive free necessary treatment on the NHS you need to meet any of the following criteria:

  • Studying full time on a course for more than 6 months
  • Your course is substantially funded by UK Government
  • You are from a country which is in the European Union (EU)
  • If not a member of the EU, then your country must have a bilateral agreement
  • If you are living in the UK whilst your husband or wife is a student and meets any of the above
  • If you are a dependent of anyone who meets the  above criteria, e.g. child under 16 or under 19 in full time education

If you do not meet any of the above criteria then it is suggested that you have suitable health care insurance in place; but emergency treatment in A+E and NHS walk in centres will not affect your insurance.

Accessing healthcare

It is important when you arrive in the UK to register with a General Practitioner (GP) doctor in a health centre or at your university’s onsite medical centre. The GP will be a general doctor who specialises in family health and will be able to see and advise anyone from small babies to more elderly members of the community.  There will also be nurses at GP surgeries who can deal with minor ailments, some injections and repeat prescriptions if needed.

Registering at a GP is free and is an important thing to do, especially as no one wants to be away from home and ill without any help at hand.


If your family or friends come to visit while you’re studying at university in the UK, it is important to note that they won’t be covered under the NHS if they are not eligible for a European Health Insurance Card. If they aren’t it is necessary for them to take out the appropriate health care insurance. Some universities will register and help see your visitors as temporary residents and patients if they are in need of urgent aid.

Existing condition

If you have a pre-existing condition and are already receiving treatment for it or are on specific medication then it is even more important to register with a GP upon arrival. This is because it is likely you will need to see them at some point during the academic year, even if only for a check-up or a prescription. By registering at a GP surgery and making an appointment to discuss your condition with the doctor you are providing the doctors with access to necessary information and it will allow them to communicate with relevant doctors and specialists. This is also beneficial to you if you are awaiting test results or diagnosis from your doctors at home.

A GP can refer you to specialised units or hospital services if you require specific treatment or tests that they may not be able to provide onsite.

Remember to check that you meet the criteria provided and are eligible for treatment on the NHS with your student visa. If not then ensure you have healthcare insurance in place, especially if you’re going to be away from home for a long period of time as you can never be certain what will or won’t happen.

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