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NHS: UK Healthcare

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NHS is the Healthcare System Used in the UK

How Can We Get It?

When we are moving to a new country, if we are going to stay for a long period, we should know how the healthcare system works.

This is very important because not all the countries have public health-care system.

And this can be an added problem as we would have to pay for private insurance, which is an extra expense.

The United Kingdom has a healthcare system that was separated by region with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Each having their own systems of publicly funded healthcare together with smaller private sector and voluntary provision.

NHS UK Healthcare logo

This service is known as National Health Service (NHS). Although is general for the whole UK, every country has its own system.

In a 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund ranking developed-country healthcare systems, the UK was ranked the best healthcare system in the world overall.

Then, how can we be eligible for this service?

When we start to work in the UK, we are automatically eligible to be covered under the National Health Service (NHS) scheme as we pay taxes to the UK Government every month from our paycheck.

That means we can have access to all the public health service without having to pay out of our pockets.

This also applies if you are self-employed as you’ll still pay taxes and National Insurance (NI) like being employed.

And now, how can we use it?


In almost every town, we can find a Surgery or GP where we can register.

We can use their service to visit a family doctor or nurse if we have common illness like colds and other non-urgent medical conditions.

If you need an appointment, you can ask it directly going to the center or call the GP on the number stated in the NHS website.

But sometimes it takes a little longer for them to answer calls, it depends on the GP.

Usually when you ask for an appointment, they would give you a booking dated about 4-5 days later.


Step 1 : You would have choose a practice (Clinic/GP/Surgery). Then you’ll have to formally register with them as a NHS Patient by submitting a registration form to them in person. 

You can fill this form going directly to the GP or download it from the website by clicking HERE.

Step 2 : When you’ve completed and returned the form, NHS will transfer our medical records to our new practice. Also they’ll send you a letter to confirm your registration as a patient with the new practice.

Step 3 : When you have received the letter, you can already ask for appointment in the medical center.

Find more information about the NHS Patient Registration process, click HERE.


We can find hospitals in the main cities around the UK.

We will usually need a GP as a referral to access hospital treatment, except in the event of an emergency.

Hospital treatment is free if you are a resident in the UK.

Find more useful information about what hospital we can choose, how register, how ask for an appointment by clicking HERE

The services and treatments listed below are free for everyone in NHS hospitals:

  • Accident and Emergency Services (but not emergency treatment once you’ve been admitted to hospital).
  • Family Planning Services (not termination of pregnancy or infertility treatment).
  • Treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections.
  • Treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence or sexual violence.

What if I am only visiting the UK from the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland?

If we are a visitors from the European Economic Area (EEA) and we fall ill or have a medical emergency during your temporary stay in England, then we’ll need a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by your home country.

If we can’t present a valid EHIC, we may be charged for our treatment.

Your EHIC will cover you for treatment that becomes necessary during a visit to England, until you return to your country.

It also covers you for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions. And for routine maternity care (providing the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth).

⇒  Find more information about Visiting England and the NHS, click HERE.

What if I’ve recently moved from from the EEA or Switzerland?

The NHS operates a residence-based healthcare system and not every person is entitled to free NHS treatment in England.

Provision of free NHS treatment is on the basis of being ordinarily resident. And this isn’t dependent upon nationality, contribution of UK taxes, contribution of National Insurance (NI), registration with a GP, having a NHS number or owning any properties in the UK.

In short, a Resident means, living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being.

If you are not a Resident in the UK, we are considered to be an overseas visitors and may be charged for NHS hospital services.

It is strongly recommended that you take out sufficient health insurance to cover your stay.

You can read more about Moved to England and NHS by clicking HERE

What if I come from other countries?

If you come from other countries that is not within the EEA or Switzerland, you would have to pay if you need any health service (excluding emergency services).

In this case, I’d recommend you to have a personal Travel Insurance, because if something happens, it could cost you a lot of money.


photo with tablets to buy in UK


You could find a lot of pharmacies everywhere in the UK.

They are usually located in cities or big towns where there’s bigger population.

In the UK, the pharmacies are like supermarkets. The over the counter medicines are organised on shelves in the isles. You can pick most non-prescription medication by yourself.

Obviously if you need help, you can ask any member of the staff and they’ll do their best to find whatever you are looking for.

This change if you need to buy “Prescriptions Drugs”. Then you’ll need to go to the Prescriptions counter in the pharmacy and they would only dispense medication with a doctor’s prescription.

The Pharmacist would only dispense the exact amount of pills or amount of medication prescribed by the doctor.

Generally, pharmacies are open for business from 9.00 am until 5.00 pm, like most shops here.

Although there are some pharmacies, known as “Late Night Pharmacies or Midnight Pharmacies”. These are open until midnight, but these are usually available in big cities.

Drugs In Supermarkets:

You can also buy some over-the-counter medicines in drug-stores like Boots or Superdrug.

And you can also find them in major supermarkets like Tesco, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Asda.


» If you are moving to the UK, you may also be interested in our articles about “UK Transportation: best ways to get around this country” and “How to write a CV & How to find a Job in the UK“.