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Accessing healthcare in the UK

Find out how to access healthcare in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). It's very important that you register with a doctor, a General Practitioner (GP), within your first weeks at UCL.

It is important to remember to look after yourself while you are in the UK and to find out how to obtain medical treatment. It is likely that the health system in your country works very differently to the UK, which is why it is essential that you read through this information. On this page you will find:


The National Health Service (NHS)

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 following treatment provided by the NHS is free for everyone:

  • accident and emergency services (but not follow-up treatment, or admission as an in-patient to hospital)
  • family planning services
  • diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections

More information on the National Health Service can be found on the NHS website.

Click here to access an online health and wellbeing tour, which explains how to use the key healthcare services located in the Bloomsbury area nearby the main UCL campus.


Registering with a GP

If you are eligible to do so, we strongly recommend that you register with a 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.

If you live nearby UCL, you may be able to register with Ridgmount Practice, a local practice located nearby the main Bloomsbury campus. 

Further information about registering with a doctor and Ridgmount Practice can be found on the student support and wellbeing webpages.

More information for international students on eligibility to register with a GP can be found below.

Important: if you are on a programme of study lasting less than six months, you cannot register with a doctor but you can still visit one as a temporary patient if you are unwell. Please note, however, that you may be charged for these services. You will only have access to primary care, meaning you cannot be referred to a specialist.

Please note that if you have submitted an application for a new Tier 4 visa following a programme of 6 months or less in the UK, you will not be able to register with a GP until you have been granted a visa and received your BRP.


EU/EEA and Swiss students

Non-UK EU, 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.
  • If you are not entitled to an EHIC or cannot be issued one of these forms, you are advised to obtain private medical insurance.

Students on a course lasting less than 6 months

You cannot register with a doctor, but you can still visit one as a temporary patient if required. This means you can visit a GP for advice and treatment. You will need your EHIC card: you may need to make payment for treatment upfront, but can reclaim it at a later date. You will only have access to primary care, meaning you cannot be referred to a specialist.

Students on a course lasting 6 months or longer

EU/EEA or Swiss students on a course lasting more than 6 months can register with a GP in their catchment area for full NHS Services. You will need your EHIC card: you may need to make payment for treatment upfront, but can reclaim it at a later date.

During the transition period, access to healthcare with the EHIC card will continue as before; however, students are still strongly encouraged to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme in order to protect their immigration status and access to healthcare after the end of the transition period.

More information can be found on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website. 

More information on applying for the EU Settlement Scheme is available on the immigration and visas webpages.


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 (IHS) as part of their application.

  • The immigration health surcharge (IHS) is mandatory for anyone wishing to enter the UK to study on a Tier 4 visa and will allow you to access the NHS in the same way as a permanent UK resident.

Students on a course lasting less than 6 months

You cannot register with a doctor, but you can still visit one as a temporary patient if required. This means you can visit a GP for advice and treatment. You will not have paid the immigration health surcharge so you will need to obtain private medical insurance to ensure you are covered for any medical treatment. You will only have access to primary care, meaning you cannot be referred to a specialist.

Students on a course lasting 6 months or longer

International non-EU/EEA students on a course lasting more than 6 months can register with a GP in their catchment area for full NHS Services. You will have paid the immigration health surcharge (IHS) as part of your visa application which allows you access to full NHS services.

Please note that if you have submitted an application for a new Tier 4 visa following a programme of 6 months or less in the UK, you will not be able to register with a GP until you have been granted a visa and received your BRP.


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/EEA 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.