Health information for international students and their families

Are you entitled to NHS treatment in the UK?
What does NHS treatment include?

*Last updated on 22 June 2017

UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) have a very detailed webpage about healthcare for International students. The page is updated regularly and can be found here.

From the 6th April 2015, anyone who applies for a visa to come to the UK for more than six months has to pay an 'Immigration Health Surcharge', which is a contribution towards the National Health Service (NHS). If you applied for your visa before 6th April 2015, you will not be required to pay the surcharge retrospectively and will remain entitled to NHS treatment until you have to extend your visa. More information about the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Are you entitled to free NHS treatment?

Status in UK

Free NHS treatment?

EEA* national

Yes, but please see the EEA Nationals section below.

Non-EEA, coming to UK for more than 6 months

Applied for visa before 6th April 2015

Applied for visa on or after 6th April 2015

 

Yes

Yes – must pay surcharge at the time of visa application.

Non-EEA, coming to UK for less than 6 months**

No

Nationals from a country with a 'Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement' with the UK

Some

*EEA - The European Economic Area

** If you are pursuing a full-time course which is less than six months long but it is substantially funded by the UK government, the Northern Ireland departments, the Welsh Ministers or the Scottish Ministers, you will receive free NHS hospital treatment. 'Substantially' means at least 35% government funded. You will need to provide evidence of the funding in order to qualify for free treatment.

EEA Nationals

EEA nationals can receive free National Health Service (NHS) treatment while in the UK. You must however obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming here: although a GP practice may register you without one, having ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’ is a condition of your stay in the UK. Please visit our webpage for EEA students for more information. See below to find out what services are, or are not, available on the NHS. You should also consider taking out additional medical insurance for situations not covered by the NHS, e.g. repatriation.

Non-EEA National and your Course is 6 Months or Longer
If your course of study is for six months or more, you will qualify for National Health Service (NHS) treatment from the beginning of your stay. Your spouse and children who are with you in the UK will also be entitled to NHS treatment. To receive NHS treatment in Wales (or England) your family members must be in the UK as your dependants, i.e. they must have a 'Dependant visa' and not, for example a 'Visitor visa'. See below to find out what services are, or are not, available on the NHS. You should also consider taking out additional insurance for situations not covered by the NHS, e.g. repatriation.

Non-EEA National and your Course is Shorter than 6 Months
It is strongly recommended that you take out adequate private health insurance for the period of your stay. The only free NHS treatment that you are technically entitled to is emergency hospital treatment in an NHS Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. Once you are admitted to a hospital ward or given an outpatient appointment, charges will apply. If you need to see a GP or access other health services, you will also have to pay. The immigration rules include provisions to refuse future visa applications by people who have an unpaid bill for NHS treatment.

Reciprocal Health Care Agreements
If you are covered by a reciprocal healthcare agreement, you will be eligible for some NHS treatment even if your course is less than 6 months in duration. Please check with the health authorities in your home country what treatment is covered by the agreement. You should consider taking out additional private insurance for situations not covered by the NHS, e.g. repatriation.

The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with the following countries:

  • Citizens of: New Zealand
  • Residents of: Anguilla; Australia; British Virgin Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar (but only if expected to stay in UK for a maximum of 30 days); Isle of Man (provided stay will not exceed 3 months); Jersey (provided stay will not exceed 3 months); Montserrat; St Helena (not Ascension Island or Tristan da Cunha); and Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Insured persons of: Bosnia; Kosovo; Macedonia; Montenegro; Serbia
Please note: This list may change, as new arrangements are negotiated

What is Covered by the NHS and what is Not?

Please note that paying an Immigration Health Surcharge does not entitle you to priority/faster service. It simply gives you the same access to NHS services as permanent UK residents have. The surcharge is designed to contribute to the funding of NHS in the same way as taxes paid by UK residents do. £150 a year may seem like a lot, but the costs of providing even basic healthcare are very high in the UK, and many treatments cost the NHS considerably more.  

If you are entitled to NHS treatment, below is a brief summary of the types of services which are free and those which you may need to pay for:

Free of charge
- An appointment with a GP/doctor or nurse – please see the ‘Register’ tab
- Emergency and non-emergency treatment in a hospital (waiting times apply)
- Medicines prescribed by your GP (in Wales)

You need to pay for
- Some GP services (e.g. some travel vaccinations)
- Dental treatment
- Optical treatment (e.g. routine optician appointments, glasses, contact lenses)

The Healthcare section on the Citizen's Advice website gives an overview of how the NHS works, and what services are, or are not, included.

How Can I Access Medical Specialists (specialist doctors)?

In the UK, the first point of call in the healthcare system is a General Practitioner (GP). Unfortunately, unless you have a medical emergency, it is not possible to access medical specialists without seeing a GP first. Many conditions can be diagnosed by a GP and they can also prescribe some medication, but if you do need to see a specialist (e.g. cardiologist or gastroenterologist), your GP will need to refer you to an appropriate department in a nearby hospital. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that requires specialist attention, it is important that you register with the GP and ask to be referred as soon as you arrive; any medical notes from your doctor back home could also prove to be useful. Please note that a specialist referral can take several weeks to come through: because NHS is free at the point of use, there could be long waiting lists to access certain tests and treatments.

An insurance policy which covers private medical care could give you much quicker access to the treatment you need, but you would still need to be referred to a specialist by a GP. You can also have private treatment on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, but that may prove to be very expensive.

Registering with a doctor, dentist or optician

*Last updated on 22 June 2017

Registering with a Doctor

International students and their dependants who are here for more than six months are strongly advised to register with a local GP surgery as soon as they arrive. It is not compulsory to register, but you will need to be registered before you can see a doctor or nurse. In addition to that, if you register within six months of your visa expiry date, you will be put on ‘temporary registration’, which will need to be extended every so often and could prevent you from accessing healthcare at crucial times.

You can register with any local GP surgery, people usually choose the one that is closest to where they live. Most of our students register with Bodnant Medical Centre because it is close the University and the Ffriddoedd accommodation site. You can search for other local GP surgeries using the NHS Direct website.

Most GP services are covered by the NHS. There are some services, e.g. travel vaccinations that you may have to pay for. Also, in Wales you will receive your prescription medicine for free, whereas in England the fee is around £8.

How to register: You need to complete an NHS registration form which you can collect from any GP surgery. You will also need to show your passport, visa and proof of address. Different GP surgeries have different appointment booking procedures, so you should check this when you register. For example, what time should you call if you need a same-day appointment?

Students with families accompanying them in the UK should bring their children’s immunisation/health records with them to the UK to show to their GP.

IMPORTANT: If you need medication to treat an ongoing condition, then please bring a supply for at least one month, as it may take some time for your GP to refer you to a specialist that would assess your needs, or order the right products.

Registering with a Dentist

It is not compulsory to register with a dental practice, but you will need to register before you can see a dentist or dental hygienist. Some dentists will accept NHS patients; however NHS places are limited so they are not always available. Even as an NHS patient you will still have to pay to be seen by a dentist and for any treatment you may need. A 'check-up' costs approximately £13.50. If you can't find, or can't wait for an NHS place, most dentists will accept private patients - this means that you can been seen sooner, but it will cost more.You can search for local dentists using the NHS Direct website. Remember to check if the dental practice accepts NHS patients or not. If there are no NHS places available now, it is worth checking later because more places may become available.

The costs of private dental care in the UK are very high comparing to many other countries. Therefore, in some cases it may prove to be more cost-effective to have non-urgent dental treatment back home during the holidays.

Registering with an Optician

It is not compulsory to register with an optician, but you will need to register before you can have an eye test. Optician appointments, eye tests, glasses and contact lenses are not normally covered by the NHS. If you have certain types of visual impairment, e.g. diabetic, then you may be eligible for NHS treatment, but you should check with your optician. You can search for local opticians using the NHS Direct website.

Insurance/Private

*Last updated on 22 June 2017

Medical Insurance

If you are not entitled to NHS healthcare in the UK, if you need any treatment (other than in A&E in an emergency) you will have to pay. Therefore, it is very important that you take out adequate health insurance for the period of your stay. It is not compulsory to have medical insurance, but it is strongly recommended.

Even if you are entitled to NHS treatment, it is still advisable to have medical insurance for situations that are not covered by the NHS and other emergencies, e.g. repatriation after a bad accident or serious illness.

There are numerous private health insurance providers in the UK. We cannot endorse any particular companies, but a quick search on the internet would allow you to find and compare various insurance packages. If you have financial sponsorship, ask your sponsor about medical insurance: some sponsors will provide medical insurance, whereas some sponsors will require you to buy medical insurance before you come to the UK.

Private Health Treatment

You can get private health treatment for any medical condition in the UK, but it can be very expensive.  Most British people normally use NHS services rather than private.  Some people (who can afford it) may choose to 'go private' when, for example, the NHS waiting list for an operation was very long and they could get the operation done sooner if they paid privately for it.   

For more information, see the Citizen's Advice Bureau information sheet about Private Healthcare

 

Mental Health

*Last updated on 22 June 2017

Mental Health

To discuss any mental health concerns, you can either contact your GP or the University's Mental Health and Counselling teams for advice and support. You may also find the Counselling service's CalmU online resources and workshops helpful.

Where can I get more information, help and advice about mental health?

Mind - A national mental health charity with a helpline and very informative website

Samaritans - Support helpline open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year

Will my information be kept confidential?

There are strict Data Protection and Confidentiality Laws in the UK. Anything you tell the doctors, or University staff, is treated as private information and is kept confidential. There are a few exceptions only if you or someone else is at risk.  For more details, see the General Medical Council (GMC) website and the University's Mental Health Team's Confidentiality information.

 

More information

*Last updated on 22 June 2017

When should I go to the doctor, pharmacy or hospital? 

Choose Well is a really informative website that will help you consider your symptoms and decide which service you should choose. You should only go to the A&E (Accidents and Emergency department in a hospital) if you have a serious medical problem that requires urgent attention, e.g. you have injured yourself badly. A&E staff see patients in the order of medical urgency, so if your condition is not seen as an emergency, you could be kept waiting for hours or even turned away. For all non-urgent health concerns you should see your GP. If you are unsure whether or not you need to go to A&E, you could ring NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47.

Where can I find out more information about health and wellbeing support at Bangor University?

You can find LOTS more information on the Student Services 'Wellbeing' webpage including links to resources about drugs, alcohol and sexual health, and much more.

Where can I get more information about healthcare in the UK?

The NHS Direct Wales has lots of useful information about local services. There is a helpline you can call if you need more information. The website also includes details of different illness, symptoms and medicines.

The UKCISA website contains comprehensive webpages about healthcare for International students.

Confidentiality

There are strict Data Protection and Confidentiality Laws in the UK.  Anything you tell the doctors, or University staff, is treated as private information and is kept confidential. There are a few exceptions only if you or someone else is at risk. For more details, see the General Medical Council (GMC) website and the University's Mental Health Team's Confidentiality information.