Healthcare in Scotland



Scotland has a very high quality of healthcare and is considered to be on par with the health care system of other European Union members. Here, expats will not just enjoy the fruits of their labours but will also have the peace of mind that their health is of the highest priority.

Free health service for all permanent residents is primarily provided by the National Health Service (NHS) Scotland – the country’s public healthcare system which took effect in 1948. Before NHS Scotland took over, the state-financed health care of Scotland was managed by Islands Medical Service and Highlands. NHS Scotland is mainly funded through general taxations paid for by all permanent residents of the country, therefore giving equal access to all those who pay contributions to the government. Funding for NHS Scotland is being managed by the Health and Social Care Directorates of the Scottish Government.

Healthcare Coverage for Expats

Due to the adequacy, comprehensiveness and high quality of health services provided by NHS Scotland, only a small percentage of the Scottish population are covered by the private healthcare system through a private insurance scheme. Additionally, some employers offer private healthcare insurance policies to their workers, although this practice is not very common. Employed expats and their dependents, on the other hand, are also entitled to free NHS services. Foreign nationals visiting Scotland are entitled to free healthcare services from National Health Service (NHS) hospitals if they come from a European Union member state. This can be made even easier if an expat can produce a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which can be used in countries that are a member of the European Union.

Meanwhile, expats who come from non-EU/EEA member nations will be charged for all medical services they seek in Scotland, hence the need to take out a private health insurance policy before travelling to Scotland as treatments in hospitals, healthcare facilities or private health institutions in the country might incur expensive fees. Private health insurance plans in Scotland vary, depending on the coverage a beneficiary pays for, but policies can include dental treatment, alternative medicine, counselling, physiotherapy and psychotherapy.

Visiting a Doctor

The public healthcare system of Scotland covers the majority of the country’s population and has an estimated 160,000 medical personnel – including more than 47,500 nurses, midwives, health visitors, and over 3,800 consultants. Furthermore, there are also more than 12,000 doctors, family practitioners and allied health professionals, which include community pharmacists, dentists and opticians. In Scotland, primary and secondary care is integrated.

Expats in Scotland need to register with a General Practitioner who will be their first point of care for non-emergency medical and healthcare needs. Registration with a GP has no cost, and almost all treatments are free of charge. In case of illness (non-urgent) outside the normal GP hours, expats in Scotland can contact NHS directly by dialling 111. NHS provides 24 by seven tele-care and connect patients with the proper health services that they need.

Hospitals in Scotland

Between 2015 and 2016, the Scottish government spent more than £12 billion in the healthcare sector; an amount that is equivalent to 40% of the national GDP. Though Scotland has an excellent healthcare system, accessibility is still an issue especially to the locals 65 years old and above that are living in the rural areas. That being said, expats should know that a majority of the largest and well-funded hospitals in Scotland are situated in the major towns and cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, the capital. Some of the most prominent hospitals in this country are:

25 Beaconsfield Rd, Glasgow G12 0PJ

Tel: +44 141 334 9441

1345 Govan Rd, Glasgow G51 4TF

Tel: +44 141 201 1100

221 Crookston Rd, Glasgow G52 3NQ

Tel: +44 141 810 3151

9 Sciennes Rd, Edinburgh EH9 1LF

Tel: +44 131 536 0000

Emergency Numbers

Below are the numbers that should be contacted in case of an emergency situation in Scotland:

  • Ambulance: 999
  • Fire:
  • Police: 999


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