• published on 3/10/2023
  • 4min

The Health System in the United Kingdom

Are you intending to get a job in London, settle in Bristol or study in Manchester? If you wish to move to the UK, you should take some time to learn about its healthcare system. Depending on your situation and specific needs, you will need to complete various administrative procedures to ensure you have access to healthcare that meets your needs.

The health system in the United Kingdom

The public health system

In the United Kingdom, heath care is provided by the NHS (National Health Service). There are four health systems that fall under the NHS umbrella: NHS England, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSC).

To benefit from the public health care system, all UK residents must register with an NHS doctor who they will then see for all their medical needs. . For a consultation with a specialist doctor (consultant), residents must be referred by their GP (general practitioner).

Public health care waiting lists can be long, so some people living in the UK  prefer to go privately for faster access to diagnostics and medical treatment.

What’s provided by the NHS?

NHS care is largely free of charge. These services include:

  • seeing an NHS GP,

  • receiving treatment in a hospital,

  • minor injuries units and walk-in centres.

However, some treatments you will generally need to pay for. These include:

  • dental care,

  • optical treatment,

  • glasses and contact lenses,

  • prescription drugs.

Health care for expats in the United Kingdom

Your health care needs in the United Kingdom may depend on your situation, the length of your stay and/or your nationality.

If you are European and will be living in the UK for more than six months

In this scenario, when you apply for your visa, you may need to pay an immigration health surcharge. This costs £624 a year, or £470 a year for students and children under 18.

You could be eligible for a reimbursement of this cost if your health care is usually supplemented by a country in the EU, or by Switzerland. Irish citizens are exempt from paying this surcharge as part of the Common Travel Area.

If you are going on secondment to the United Kingdom

During the visa application process, you will need to pay the healthcare surcharge, along with your partner and dependants.

While on secondment, you may choose to opt for private health insurance for expats in the UK  to cover your medical needs.

For more information about secondment in the UK, click here.

If you are settling in the UK

The requirements for settling in the UK depend on various factors, including your nationality, work status and if you have a partner and children.

Please find below the steps needed for different countries:

To find out more about the health system in the UK:

To find the nearest health care provider, search the NHS directory.