Health Care in the UK

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

healthcareCANADAIf you are contemplating in relocating to the United Kingdom, keep in mind of the many important things that you have to be aware of.  You have to know about the necessary documents for your transfer there, along with having the capability to handle the cost of living. Health care is also another important thing that you have to discuss with the right people.

UK, or Britain is officially called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island. This country lies in mainland Europe and comprises Great Britain, part of Ireland and some smaller local islands. The only part of the United Kingdom that has a land border is Northern Ireland. Aside from the land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. United Kingdom’s largest island, Great Britain, is connected to France by the Channel Tunnel.

United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy that is comprised of four constituent countries namely Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of Wales, and also of the Commonwealth realms.

The National Health Service of the United Kingdom

Recognized as one of the leading health care services all around the world, the UK National Health Service provides free medical assistance to British nationals and also visitors from European Union countries, New Zealand, and Australia. All the other non-British residents though, have to pay for their medical and hospital treatments, unless their employers provide them with sufficient medical insurance. Additionally, free NHS treatments are provided for all the UK residents for more than twelve months and are registered with a local doctor.

If you are confused as to whether you qualify for the health service or not, try to visit the website of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom. It provides you with the detailed rules and procedures, along with documentation on access to UK hospitals and general health care, and some other important health care information, especially if you are looking forward to be working in the United Kingdom.

This was shared in a post on Britain Expat Forum last March 5, 2009:

I am an expat and pay no private health insurance, so I don’t understand why you seem to think you must do this as an expat.
Once you are settled in the UK you must pay taxes here (it is more complicated than that, but in principle if you reside here the government expects you to pay taxes here)
Part of those taxes are the National Insurance Contributions, which contribute to all kind of social support, I believe NHS would be part of that.
In any case, once you are settled and are paying taxes locally (that is working for six months) you have the right to use the NHS.
I don’t know what the situation is for any dependants, but my “gut feeling” is that everybody would have the right to use the NHS services.
I would consult with your closest British Consulate just to make sure

Before arriving in the United Kingdom, see to it that you have undergone a complete medical check-up. If you have something that needs medical attention and cannot be possibly treated before you leave your country, double check to make sure that your medical problem can be properly cared for in the United Kingdom.

Visitors and expatriates are recommended to take out extra insurance before they arrive so that they can be properly dealt in times of emergency.

This was echoed in the Britain Expat Forum last July 3, 2009:

I understand that policy is intended for short stays abroad only. With the sole exception of FEHBP and other employer-paid health insurance specifically valid worldwide, it would seem unnecessary and expensive to carry anything but BUPA and similar NHS-coordinated insurance. Remember to buy travel policies when going abroad since unless you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen you won’t have EHIC (formerly E111) EU-wide free cover.

We have a FEHBP policy (US federal employee and retiree policy) and hardly ever use it. The medical are on the NHS is equal in most cases to anything you pay for. Only if there is a waiting list does it make a difference.

Funded through taxation, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom provides low-cost and sometimes, even free medical care to all the residents of the United Kingdom. The charges are basically payable for dental treatments, medical prescriptions, eye tests, and spectacles, except for those people exempted from paying including the children, the people who have receipts of unemployment benefits, and those pregnant women. The National Health Service general practitioners, along with the hospital care consultations are practically free for all the residents of the United Kingdom. Hospitals and other medical facilities that provide free services are seen in most parts of the country. However, there are only few dentists that offer NHS services. The public system dominates the health care in England with private health care and other complementary treatments for those with the money to spare.

Overseas visitors from those non-European Union countries are qualified for free emergency treatments at all NHS hospitals. However, they are required to pay for other medical services and in-patient treatments. The United Kingdom has also a reciprocal health care arrangement to a number of other countries that include Australia, former Soviet Union States, as well as a number of Eastern European countries. Nationals from these said countries are relatively exempted from health care payments

Moving in the United Kingdom

Upon arriving in the United Kingdom, the first thing you have to do is to register with your General Practitioner located in you area. You will then be provided with a National Health Service number. Your general practitioner will then give you the necessary treatments and advice. He will also issue medical prescriptions and endorse you for a specialist treatment if there is a need to do so.

If you have some inquiries regarding dentists and general practitioners in your area, the NHS Direct on 4647 and 0845 can provide you with the necessary details. The best way is still by recommendation as experience is still the best teacher. Since this is only available in Wales and in England, you can browse the Internet and search for the NHS website. NHS Direct is basically a 24-hour call in health advice and information telephone service run by trained medical specialists and nurses. Additionally, NHS operates ‘walk-in centers’ in different locations in the country to provide advice and treatments on minor health concerns and problems. Although these centers are open for overseas visitors, certain fees are still charged.

Pharmacies in the United Kingdom

Pharmacists, or sometimes called as chemists in the United Kingdom, are found all over London. Chain outlets like Superdrug and Boots are fast rising, as independent operators and shops are fast disappearing. Pharmacies are located in neighborhoods in most shopping areas.

Trained pharmacists are also available to supply you with your prescription medicines. They also can provide you with general advice on certain medical conditions that require non-prescription treatments. Some over-the-counter medicines are available in some other countries can be controlled though in Britain.

Hospitals in the United Kingdom

There are a number of private and public hospitals and medical facilities in and around London. Some offer surgeons with varied fields of specializations, but not all provide dedicated emergency services. All the hospitals that provide emergency services though, will accept you even if you do not have an NHS number. The patients are properly treated in order of the urgency of the emergency situation.

Relocating and living in United Kingdom is not a matter to think about provided that you are knowledgeable on how their health care system works, and you are aware about the necessary things that need to be considered upon your arrival.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jitendra kumar singh November 13, 2010 at 4:10 pm

i am a noninvasive cardiology technician and looking for work.


Maelgwn ap Gwynfor March 10, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Health is devolved across the United Kingdom to each member state (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland). Subtle differences in each such as in Wales, prescriptions are free (I think Scotland are following suit).

Reply July 4, 2011 at 1:26 am

A reliable, affordable and cheap health insurance everyone’s looking for. You can save up to 40% off your next health insurance premiums. And major discounts on all leading brands.


cynthia August 3, 2011 at 4:39 am

I am a U.S. citizen and our healthcare system here is inadequate and corrupt. I am unable to receive medical treatment in my country because I attempted to expose corruption. I was injured in an automobile accident that was not my fault. The insurance company of the At-Fault party would have had to pay for my injuries. By shoulder was injured and very painful, when I saw the doctor he said that he couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The accident occurred in 1993, I was forced to abandon my plans of completing college and had to stop working. In 2008, I saw a Dr. that was working here that was from the UK. He simply did an X-ray and came in and said, “you know you’ve got a broken arm in your shoulder”. After all those years of pain, seeing several doctors, being treated as a drug addict, my injury was finally diagnosed as a broken bone. I did get it repaired and it lasted for 1 year before I started having problems again. Now I can’t get treatment anywhere. I have been to some of the top hospitals in the U.S. and the doctors tell me that there is nothing wrong. I went to Venezuela seeking treatment. The doctor I saw there did an MRI, CT Scan, and X-ray, as had been done in the U.S. and told me that I have 2 torn ligaments and a separated bone in the shoulder. I couldn’t get the surgery he suggested because the insurance I have won’t pay for treatment outside of the US. The public hospital wasn’t capable of providing the care I needed. I did bring the test results back and showed them to doctors here, I was told that I needed to go back to Venezuela because the doctor there seemed to be on top of things. I am in constant pain, I have difficulty getting treated for an UTI and am honestly afraid for my life.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: