Healthcare in London



National Health Service (NHS) is Britain’s publicly funded healthcare that aims to provide free healthcare for all citizens. Services include hospitals, family doctors, specialists, dentists, chemists, opticians and ambulance services.

Furthermore, legal residents who have stayed for at least six months can avail themselves of these services.  

NHS Services

Most of the services with NHS are free. General Practitioners provide advice on health issues, examinations, treatments, vaccinations and referrals. To find a local doctor, check the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Making an appointment with an NHS GP might take a while since the service is free, and if the condition is not urgent, one may need to wait for a day or three. There is a standard fee for prescriptions and patients need to pay for sight tests, NHS glasses and dental treatment. Patients always have the right to change doctors, or to choose which hospital to be admitted to when referred to a hospital for treatment.

Private Health Insurance

Often, private health insurance is provided by large firms or by employers as part of the expat package benefits. Smaller firms may not provide health insurance to an employee. Expats not wanting to be burdened by the long NHS waiting list can purchase international health insurance. 

Among the most recognised health plans include Aspen Healthcare Ltd., AXA PPP healthcare, BMI Healthcare, BUPA, Capio Healthcare UK Ltd., HCA International Ltd., PHS Private Health Service, and Standard Life Healthcare.

London's life expectancy is high at 77.9 years (males) and 82.4 years (female). But one of the biggest factors that cause illness and death in the country is smoking. More than 120,000 people die from smoke related diseases yearly.    

Pharmacies are sprawled all over London. Boots and Superdrug are some of the chain outlets located in shopping areas that sell health and medical items along with a wide range of beauty and gift products. See the NHS website for the locations of pharmacies and operating hours.   

Medicines in the UK are either prescribed by a doctor, sold under a pharmacist's supervision or can be bought freely in supermarkets. NHS prescriptions from doctors have a standard fee that costs GBP£6.65 but does not apply for those who are pensioners over the age of 60, students under the age of 19 and people on benefits who have a permanent disability or low income or certain medical conditions like diabetes.   

Some private doctors offer a 24-hour service with an option to make house calls. It is best to request the number of the GP in cases of non-life threatening illnesses. 

Expats can call 999 in cases of emergencies to request ambulance services, police assistance or for fire emergencies. Ambulance services will arrive in approximately 10 minutes or less.   

Note that not all NHS hospitals have Accident and Emergency services. One can call NHS Direct at 0845 4647 which is a 24-hour helpline to check the nearest hospital that can handle emergency cases. 


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Healthcare in the UK