The UK Healthcare System For US Students

Feb 20, 2017 1:00:00 AM

Healthcare in the UK is a whole other ballgame to North America. The National Healthcare System (NHS) gives UK residents access to full healthcare for free, plus subsidized dental and prescription coverage. But, how is it free? Well, it technically isn’t; part of Britons’ income tax pays for the NHS, so that all residents can benefit from the healthcare provided.


International students might have considered getting covered on their parents’ healthcare, but this won’t be enough for healthcare when studying in the UK.

How to get covered

To get covered while studying in the UK is actually quite simple…

During the Tier 4 Visa application, students will pay a small fee known as the NHS surcharge, to cover healthcare while living in the UK. This is non-negotiable and must be done before moving abroad. So, before even moving away, it’s almost all sorted!

During orientation (or ‘Fresher’s) week at university, students will be able to sign up to a GP (General Practitioner) – a medical doctor who will treat and provide prevention and health education care to patients outside of a hospital.

What are international students eligible to receive?

As a non-EEA (European Economic Area) National, students will qualify for the full NHS treatment if:

  • Their program lasts more than 6 months
  • If their program lasts less than 6 months and studying in Scotland
  • If their program is less than 6 months long, and the government is funding at least 35% of the program. Depending on the circumstances, this may not include GP treatment.

With this in mind, international students can receive:

  • Some emergency treatment (but not follow-up treatment)
  • Family planning services
  • Treatment of certain communicable diseases
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment

If students require any medication prescribed by a GP, there’s a small fee of £8.50; it’s good value! It is encouraged that they see a doctor or medical practitioner back home before leaving. This is an opportunity to get copies of any medical records that might be beneficial for a student’s UK GP to have.

Please note that we can’t advise students on bringing any prescriptions over from North America. If students are on any medication, check with your doctor about the process of transferring medications. The health surcharge that students have paid when completing their visa application will give access to the NHS and ensure a happy and healthy stay while studying in the UK.

Getting to grips with another country’s healthcare system is a little daunting, but once it’s all laid out in front of you, it’s quite simple. For any parents or students who would like to find out more on healthcare in the UK for US students, or any other practical information that comes with moving and studying abroad, download our Study In The UK: The Parent’s Guide.

Download t