International Student Support


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. 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.

How to access medical care in the UK

  • It is important to be aware how to access medical care in the UK should you require it during your time here. 
  • It is likely that the health system in your county works very differently to the UK which is why it is essential that you read through this information.
  • We have put together some key information to help you understand how health care works in the UK - select from the options below for further details on different aspects of UK health care:

International (non-EU/EEA/Swiss) students

  • Students who are making an application for a visa of more than 6 months will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge for access to the NHS whilst on their studies in the UK.
  • The IHS is mandatory for anyone wishing to enter the UK to study on a Tier 4 visa.  From 6 April 2016 nationals of Australia and New Zealand are also required to pay the surcharge and are no longer exempt.
  • The IHS will allow you to access the NHS in the same way as a permanent UK resident.
  • You do not need to pay the IHS if you are an EU/EEA student or if you are studying in the UK with a short-term study visa. For more information about this please see the UCL Immigration and Visa page, and the UKVI website.

EU/EEA and Swiss students

  • Non-UK European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals, and their family, should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK to ensure they can access NHS services for free.
  • If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss national and are exercising your right to reside in the UK as a student, you (and any family members) are required to hold comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) throughout your period of residence in the UK.
  • The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) obtained from your country of residence is acceptable evidence of CSI, if your stay in the UK is to be temporary.
  • You may alternatively be eligible to obtain Forms S1, S2 or S3 from the social security institution in your EEA country of residence outside the UK.
  • If you are not entitled to an EHIC or cannot be issued one of these forms, you are advised to obtain private medical insurance. Further information on the requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance can be found on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.

Private Medical insurance

  • If you are only studying in the UK for 6 months or less and you have a short-term study visa, you are advised to obtain private medical insurance as you will be liable for any NHS health services that you use.
  • If you are a non-EU student studying in the UK for more than 6 months, 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. However, medical insurance is not compulsory and is your decision whether you wish to purchase it or not.
  • UCL does not endorse or recommend a specific insurance company, however the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) recommends Endsleigh Insurance.