• The Midgie
  • 1 October 2008

The NHS (National Health Service) was set up in 1948 to offer free, affordable healthcare to all. It is now a gigantic organisation, which employs well over one million people and has a budget roughly equal to that of a small country.

It’s free, isn’t it?

The NHS is legally required to offer free care to a variety of non-residents who pay taxes. These include people who are working or studying full-time in the UK, who will be covered for the duration of their contracts or courses of study. Nonresidents will have to pay any charges a UK resident might incur, such as prescription charges and dental treatment charges.

What if my country has a reciprocal health arrangement with the UK?

There is an EU treaty obligation which requires member states of the EEA to provide state-funded healthcare to visitors from other member states on the same basis as their own residents, provided that the visitor has a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in their country of residence.

What if I’m a non-EEA citizen and I’m not working?

In general, if you’re visiting the UK you are not entitled to NHS care without charge unless you are accepted for care under one of the negotiated reciprocal healthcare agreements or fall within a specific exemption category.

How do I find a doctor?

Call NHS 24 on 0845 24 24 24, look in the phone book or browse The chances are that you’ll have noticed your local GP
surgery in any case. There are also lists of doctors pinned up in libraries.

How do I register?

Surgeries will only allow you to register if you live locally so you’ll need proof of address, like a utility bill. You’ll also be expected to produce a letter from your employer. However, if you fall ill don’t panic. Surgeries can register you as a temporary patient, or you can try an NHS drop in clinic, although your wait may well be a long one.

How much are prescriptions?

The generosity of the NHS doesn’t extend to free prescriptions (see Sexual Health overleaf for exceptions). In Scotland, however, the £5 prescription charge is less than in

What about dentists?

Finding a dentist is trickier because of high demand and high prices. If you manage to find a dentist with room on their list, you must be prepared to cough up 80% of the cost of
treatment, up to a maximum of £384.

If I don’t have insurance and I end up in hospital will I have to pay?

Emergency treatment is free to all visitors. In general terms, this means that if you’re from an EEA member state or reciprocal health agreement country you’re entitled to emergency and after care treatment (until your doctor decides you can go home). If you’re from a non-EEA country, or a country that doesn’t have a health agreement with the UK, only emergency treatment in an A&E department is free. You should have insurance to cover after care charges otherwise you will be charged. It’s tempting to assume that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is an alternative to travel insurance – it’s not. It does not cover any private healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue or lost/stolen property. There are also some services (e.g.repatriation costs if you’re in an accident or becomes seriously ill and cannot travel home on normal transport) which are not covered by the NHS or any EEA state healthcare system.

Sexual Health:

How do you get a prescription for the pill?

Your best bet is to go to your local GP (short for general practioner) and ask for a prescription., which will be free.

What about the morning after pill?

Again, ask your GP..You can also buy it over the counter at a pharmacy.

What if I think I’m pregnant?

Your GP (yes, repetitive) is a good bet, although you can also buy pregnancy testing kits from pharmacies or online for less than £12.

Are there specialised sexual health centres?

Family planning clinics are often more thorough than GPs and can provide a wider range of services including IUCDs, cervical smears and psychosexual services. Certain cities have their own initiatives, like the Sandyford Initiative in Glasgow. Nationwide GUM clinics (Genito-Urinary Medicine) cover all aspects of sexual health.

Useful Contacts

NHS 24: health advice for Scotland 08454 24 24 24
NHS Direct: useful information for nonemergency health concerns
Family Planning Association: sexual health advice

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