Healthcare

In the UK there are two options for healthcare, National Health Service (NHS) and Private medical practice.

The NHS operates a residence-based healthcare system. Most NHS services are free to people who are ordinarily resident in the UK. Treatment in A&E departments and at GP surgeries are free for all.

You can choose to use private healthcare provider and register with a private medical practice. There is plenty of choice for private healthcare in the UK.

Read more on these Healthcare options

The General Practitioner and Specialists

In the UK the General Practitioner is always the first point of contact, even for children. GPs are family doctors that perform routine health checks, gynaecological and pre/post-natal checks, developmental checks for children, immunisations for both children and adults and any other non-specific illness. They often provide the initial diagnosis and then if necessary refer you to a specialist. The NHS GP can also refer you to a private specialist. GPs usually work in practices as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, practice managers, receptionists and other staff.
We recommend that you register with a GP as soon as you have a permanent UK address.
To find an NHS GP surgery near you, visit the NHS website.
NHS GP surgeries have their own geographical boundaries, so practices will only accept patients living in the catchment area. Before registering with your surgery, you may want to ask neighbours for recommendations, visit a couple of surgeries, and inquire about opening hours and services offered. In order to register, call or visit your GP surgery. You may need to present photo identification, such as your passport or driving license and proof of your address, such as a recent council tax bill or utility bill.
Most private doctors do not require advance registration, but it is advisable to contact them before you become sick to ensure they will see you when you need them. To register with a private GP, call or visit your chosen practice. Some will require an initial appointment and may also require an annual fee.

Specialists

Specialists including paediatricians, gynaecologists, dermatologists and cardiologists, in the UK are highly qualified consultants who specialise in specific areas of medicine. Patients may be referred to a specialist either by an NHS or private GP.
The majority of private health insurance in Britain will only cover specialist appointments and treatments when referred by a GP (both NHS and private) and not the initial appointment with the private GP.  You will also need to ensure that the recommended specialist is included in the list of consultants covered by your insurance company.
Pregnancies are usually not covered by private insurance companies; unless it is a risky pregnancy. However, some private international health insurances will cover private GP fees, pregnancy, and private specialists without a GP referral.  It is advisable to enquire and understand your coverage.

National Health Service (NHS)

National Healthcare Service (NHS)
The National Health Service (NHS) is the free  national healthcare system primarily funded through the general taxation system and overseen by the Department of Health.
Anyone who is ordinarily resident in the UK (i.e. lawfully living and settled in the UK), including full time overseas students and work permit holders, are entitled to free medical care under the National Health Service (NHS).
NHS services
The main services provided on the NHS are: GP (General Practitioner), dentist, hospital and emergency care, mental health, sexual health, optician and pharmacy.
For more details visit: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/
The General Practitioner
In the UK the General Practitioner is always the first point of contact, even for children.
GPs are family doctors that perform routine health checks, gynaecological and pre/post-natal checks, developmental checks for children, immunisations for both children and adults and any other non-specific illness. They often provide the initial diagnosis and then if necessary refer you to a specialist. The NHS GP can also refer you to a private specialist upon request. GPs usually work in practices as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, practice managers, receptionists and other staff.Visits to the surgery arefreeand you can register with a GP practice of your choice, as long as you live within its catchment area and it is accepting new patients.
We recommend that you register with a GP as soon as you have a permanent UK address.
To find an NHS GP surgery near you, visit the NHS website.
NHS GP surgeries have their own geographical boundaries, so practices will usually only accept patients living in the catchment area. Before registering with your surgery, you may want to ask neighbours for recommendations, visit a couple of surgeries, and inquire about opening hours and services offered. In order to register, call or visit your GP surgery. You may need to present photo identification, such as your passport or driving license and proof of your address, such as a recent council tax bill or utility bill.
Some GP practices allow you to register online by filling the GMS1 form that you can download from the following website: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Pages/NHSGPs.aspx
GP referrals:
You are entitled to ask for a referral for specialist treatment on the NHS. However, whether you will get the referral depends on what your GP feels is clinically necessary in your case. Unfortunately sometimes  you have to wait quite a long time for an appointment with a  specialist however these visits are also free.
If you want to see a private specialist, you should get a letter of referral from your GP. A referral is requested by many private practitioners and private medical insurance policies. If you have private medical insurance, ask your insurer if they need a referral.
Prescriptions:
You can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, you:

  • are 60 or over
  • are under 16
  • are 16-18 and in full-time education
  • are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
  • have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)

For more information please check:

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/Prescriptioncosts.aspx

In an Emergency
Most GP surgeries will have a recorded message with instructions on how to proceed in emergencies out of opening hours.
Depending on the severity of the situation, Minor Injury Units and Walk in Centres are options available where you are likely to have less waiting time than at your local A&E.
In case of a serious Emergency, you need to visit your local NHS Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department as private hospitals do not offer this service. If the situation is very serious dial 999and ask for an ambulance, otherwise make your way by car, taxi or public transportation.
Dentists and orthodontists
As for dentists, the big difference between an NHS and a private one is the material used and the cost. However, many dentists work for both systems and would tell the benefits of making a service under each track. They generally point out the difference in material, the final result, and the prices for what you need. NHS dentists are subsidized by the NHS, but the cost of each kind of service is standard and usually very low. Therefore, in many cases you will have an option of what kind of service to get depending on what you need to be done. The first step is to look at the NHS website (see below)and find a dentist nearby by entering your post code, as long as they are accepting new patients.
NHS dentist offer free dental care ifyou are:

  • aged under 18
  • under 19 and receiving full-time education
  • pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • staying in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist
  • an NHS hospital dental service outpatient (however, you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges).

For more information please check the following website:http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/Dentalcosts.aspx

Dentists, opticians, alternative medicine and pharmacies

Dentists and Orthodontists

All practicing dentists must be registered with the General Dental Council. This is a statutory body, which protects the patient by ensuring that all practicing dentists are properly trained. All qualified dentists will have the letters BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) or LDS (Licentiate in Dental Surgery) after their name.
Dentistry is one of the few NHS  services where you have to pay a contribution towards the cost of your care.
There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area. Simply find a dental practice that’s convenient for you, whether it’s near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available.
You can search the NHS  website at

Dental practices won’t always have the capacity to take on new NHS patients – you may have to join a waiting list, look for a different dentist who is taking on new NHS patients, or be seen privately.
You’re entitled to any treatment which you need to maintain your dental health. This could include the fitting of crowns, bridges and dentures. The dentist will give you a treatment plan after your check-up if you ask for it, which will show you what you need and the cost.
There are three standard charges for a course of NHS dental treatment, depending on the treatment needed.  Most treatments are offered free through the NHS  for children under 18 and pregnant women through to the first year of their child’s life.
If you are specifically looking for private dental care the best resources are through the FOCUS website. We have an extensive list of dental contacts as well paediatric specialists and hospitals.
The big difference between an NHS and a private dentist is the material used and the cost. However, many dentists work for both systems and would explain the benefits of providing a service under each track. They generally point out the difference in material, the final result, and the prices for what you need.

Opticians

An ophthalmic practitioner or an optometrist will check the quality of your vision and eye health. Both are trained to recognise abnormalities and signs of any eye disease such as cataracts or glaucoma. If necessary, they will refer you on to your GP or an eye clinic for further investigations. They also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
Dispensing opticians fit glasses and contact lenses, but do not test eyes. They can give you advice on types of lens, such as single-vision or bifocal, and help you choose the frames.
Ophthalmologists (eye surgeons) are doctors that specialise in the medical and surgical care of your eyes and the visual system. They also look into the prevention of eye disease and injury. An ophthalmologist treats patients of all ages, from premature babies to the elderly. The conditions dealt with in ophthalmology can range from eye trauma to cataracts, diabetic eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, congenital and genetic eye problems.
Eye tests can be carried out at any high street optician such as Boots, Spec Savers, D&A and David Clulow, etc.
All children under 16 (or under 19 if in full-time education) are entitled to a free NHS sight test and an NHS optical voucher that can be used to help pay towards the cost of the glasses.

Alternative medicine

There is an increasing interest in treating health problems via alternative medicine, complementary therapies or homeopathy. Recognising the body’s own ability to heal and re-balance itself, these treatments or therapies aim to enable the individual to take control of their symptoms, and develop skills to be able to maintain health in the future.
Almost six million people in the UK use complementary health care.  In the UK it is rare to find conventional and complementary practitioners working together. Where they do, it is known as integrated health care.
Most alternative therapies are not available on the NHS, but the NHS may sometimes cover acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, massage, osteopathy and clinical hypnotherapy.
A significant number of GPs are trained in and use certain types of complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture; and GPs may sometimes refer to other practitioners, including chiropractic for back pain.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies (or chemists) are very easy to find in the UK with large chains, such as Boots and Lloyds, to smaller independent shops.  Many large grocery stores have a pharmacy department that is open later in the evening.

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