Accessing healthcare in the UK

Find out how to access healthcare in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). It is 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 be aware of 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 the information below. 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, 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

Find more information about the National Health Service on the NHS website.

UCL also runs 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. 

Access the online health and wellbeing tour. 

Registering with a GP (doctor)

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.

A UK phone number is an important part of both GP registration and accessing other healthcare services. GP appointments and vaccine updates are often communicated via phone therefore it is very important you get a UK phone number as soon as possible. 

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

Ridgmount Practice

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

See the student support and wellbeing webpages for further information about registering with a doctor and Ridgmount Practice.

Babylon GP at Hand

Babylon GP at Hand is a service run with the NHS, which allows you to have video appointments with a GP on your phone. For face-to-face appointments, Babylon GP at Hand has seven clinics in London for you to visit.

Babylon GP at Hand allows all students studying in London to use its service.

For more information about Babylon GP at Hand, please visit their website.
To see the NHS Fact Sheet on Babylon GP at Hand, please visit the NHS website.  

Please note that you cannot register at two separate GPs, therefore, you will have to choose either Babylon GP at Hand or a traditional GP like Ridgmount Practice.

Find your NHS number

When filling out certain documents such as the GHIC application, you'll need to know your NHS number. You can use the NHS website to find out what your NHS number is. Please note that you will need to have registered with a GP before you receive an NHS number. 

The NHS app

The NHS app allows you to book and manage appointments with your GP, order prescriptions and have them sent to your local pharmacy, search for health advice including the use of NHS 111 and see your UK medical records. You can also use the NHS app to prove your vaccination status and obtain your NHS COVID Pass. Please be aware that at this point in time, you can only get your NHS COVID Pass if you have been fully vaccinated in the UK.


If you are on a programme of study lasting less than six months, you cannot register with a doctor as a permanent patient but you can still register 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 Student visa following a programme of six 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.