Entitlement to NHS Care

The UK has a publicly-funded health care system: the National Health Service, or NHS. The National Health Service aims to provide free, quality health care for all, but must limit eligibility to ensure that the system is not exploited. The following people are entitled to health care from the NHS:

  • British citizens resident in UK
  • Anyone who has been a UK resident for at least twelve months
  • Anyone with a British work permit
  • Foreign students studying for longer than six months in the UK
  • EU nationals currently in the UK
  • Nationals from: the EEA*, Anguilla, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, the Channel Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, New Zealand, Romania, Russia, St Helena, Switzerland, Turkey, and the Caicos Islands.

Although you may be entitled to care, you will occasionally be required to pay for care if you are not a UK resident, and cover certain costs even if you are, such as prescription charges. For details see NHS Costs.

The NHS does not aim to provide free health care for everyone, but to provide free health care for UK residents. This is because the system is paid for through the taxes taken from UK taxpayers' earnings. However, if you are visiting the UK and need medical care as a matter of urgency, you will be entitled to receive treatment. All emergency patients are treated free of charge in the UK, regardless of their nationality or health insurance status. You may be required to pay for treatment if you would not usually be entitled to free health care from the NHS and must stay in hospital for an extended period.

Once you are a UK resident, you will need to register at a General Practitioner's, or GPs, Surgery. Friends, relatives, colleagues or classmates should be able to recommend a suitable local practice. If you need help, doctors' surgeries are listed in the telephone directory, and many have details listed online if you search for local GP surgeries. You can also contact your local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau or CAB (listed in the telephone directory) for details of local surgeries and/or doctors who speak your native language, if you are uncomfortable speaking English.

If you need to see a doctor, you will need to contact the surgery to make an appointment. Most surgeries are open outside regular office hours, for example from eight in the morning until seven at night, but will usually close for one or two hours at lunch.

* The European Economic Area represents the freedom of movement and agreement to certain social policies undertaken by its thirty member states. These are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.