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Health advice


It is important to remember to look after yourself when you are in the UK and to find out how to obtain medical treatment if you need it. The National Health Service (NHS) is the healthcare system in the UK and is primarily funded through general taxation rather than requiring insurance payments. 

Some NHS services are free at the point of delivery, others you need to pay for. The Information for overseas visitors to the UK on the NHS website provides detailed information on how to access health treatment in the UK if you need it.

Anyone making an application for a visa of more than 6 months after the 5 April 2015 will be required to pay the immigration health surcharge to access NHS healthcare in the UK. If you hold a visa that you applied for before 6 April 2015 you will not need to pay the surcharge. For more information about this please see the UCL Immigration and Visa page, and the UKVI website.

Do I need to pay the immigration health surcharge?

If you are a student on a visa for longer than 6 months, applying for your visa after 5 April 2015, you will be required to pay the surcharge to access NHS healthcare in the UK. Your visa application won’t be granted if you don’t pay the healthcare surcharge, or your application will be delayed if you don’t pay the right amount so it is important that you pay the fee. For this reason, you must pay the fee prior to completing your visa application as you will be required to enter an immigration health surcharge reference number as part of your visa application. Further details can be found on the UKVI website and you can use their surcharge calculator to work out how much you will need to pay.

The immigration health surcharge will allow you to access the NHS in the same way as a permanent UK resident.

You do not need to pay the surcharge if you are an EEA student or if you are studying in the UK with a short-term study visa.

I have paid the immigration health surcharge, do I need to get private health insurance as well?

If you have paid the immigration health surcharge, you will be eligible for free NHS treatment. However, you may wish to consider private health insurance anyway as there can be long waiting times for some NHS services. With private medical insurance you can also ensure you are covered for other medical-related costs that are not covered by the NHS.

You cannot get private medical insurance as an alternative to paying the immigration health surcharge.

Further details and advice on medical insurance can be found on the UKCISA website.

I am an EEA student and I have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), do I need to get private health insurance as well?

If you have a valid EHIC card, you will be eligible for free NHS treatment. You may wish to consider private health insurance as well as there can be long waiting times for some NHS services. With private medical insurance you can also ensure you are covered for other medical-related costs that are not covered by the NHS. Further details and advice on medical insurance can be found on the UKCISA website.

Please remember that the UK’s health care system may be different to what you are used to at home, so your EHIC may not cover you for the same services in the UK as you would expect to get free in your home country.

I am only studying at UCL for 6 months or less and have a short-term study visa, can I access NHS services for free?

No, you will need to obtain private medical insurance to cover yourself for the duration of your programme as you will be liable to pay for any NHS services you use. Further details and advice on medical insurance can be found on the UKCISA website.


A doctor, or general practitioner (GP), should be your first point of contact for medical treatment in the UK. Most GP surgeries or health centres provide a range of services and GPs can advise on most medical issues. A GP can refer you to a specialist if required. 

Should I register with a doctor?

Yes, it is important that you register with a general practitioner (GP) within your first week(s) at UCL. UCL Health Centre, also referred to as Gower Place Practice, is an NHS general practice located on UCL campus which provides general health care, a contraceptive service and a full nursing service. You can register with them if you live in one of the local postcodes which they cover.

To register, you need to download and complete their form and then visit the UCL Health Centre in person. You will be able to register only after enrolling on your programme of study at UCL as you will need to present your UCL identity card at registration.

If you live outside UCL Health Centre’s catchment area, you can search for an NHS general practice near you on the NHS website.

We strongly recommend that you register with a general practitioner (GP) within the first few weeks of arriving in the UK. This will enable your GP to process your registration and provide you with an NHS number in good time. You are required to have an NHS number in order to obtain hospital treatment (non emergency) and if you need to be referred to a specialist clinician.

Don’t wait until you feel unwell before registering with a doctor – make sure you register as soon as possible after your arrival.

I have regular prescribed medication at home – can I get this from a doctor in the UK?

There is no guarantee that you will be able to get the same medication as prescribed to you in your home country. In order to get medication in the UK, you need to be assessed by a doctor who will decide what medication you need. It is a good idea to bring your current prescription and/or a note from your doctor (with an English translation if necessary). If your course is three to six months long and you are on regular medication, you are advised to bring with you sufficient supplies for the duration of your programme of study.

What should I do in a medical emergency?

In a medical emergency, you should call 999 (UK emergency services) and provide the operator with details of your situation. If you need urgent medical attention, an ambulance will be dispatched to take you to a hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.

If you need urgent medical attention but are well enough to travel, you should make your own way to a hospital A&E department. You can find your nearest A&E department on the NHS website. The nearest A&E to UCL is University College Hospital.

How else can I get medical advice?

There are a number of other ways you can get medical advice for health issues if you cannot get an appointment with your GP when required.

Pharmacies

If you are suffering from a common health problem (for example, a cold) you can visit a local pharmacy and speak confidentially to a pharmacist. The pharmacist can provide general advice on health issues and suitable medication. You can find your nearest pharmacy on the NHS website.

Walk-in Centres

Walk-in Centres provide access to healthcare advice and treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. You do not need to pre-register or make an appointment in advance. The nearest walk-in centre to UCL is Soho NHS Walk-in Centre on Frith Street.

NHS 111

111 is the NHS non-emergency telephone number which provides immediate assistance from highly trained advisors. They will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms, provide medical advice and direct you to the most appropriate medical care. The NHS 111 phone line is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

Do I need to have any specific vaccinations prior to arriving in the UK?

You are strongly recommended to have the following vaccinations before starting at UCL:

  • Meningococcal Meningitis C Conjugate (if this is unavailable Meningitis A and C or ACWY may be given instead)
  • MMR (Mumps, Measles and Rubella).

If you do not have these vaccinations, contact the UCL Health Centre as soon as possible.


For other health services, for example, dental care, you will need to register for separately. Some of these services may be partially covered by the NHS and other services you will need to pay for. 

How can I register with a dentist?

You can find your nearest dentist on the NHS website.

Some dental practices in the UK provide NHS treatment but many do not. You should ask your dentist if they accept NHS patients. If you already have a GP then your dentist will contact your GP to confirm your NHS entitlement. If accepted, your dentist will ask you for the NHS number on your medical card.

Even if you are entitled to NHS treatment, you may still need to contribute 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, you will need to meet full cost of your treatment.

Can I see an optician?

Yes, but you will normally need to pay for an eye test. If you need glasses or contact lenses, the optician will give you a prescription. The cost of frames and lenses vary greatly. You can find your nearest optician on the NHS website.

Page last modified on 08 may 15 13:57