Healthcare in the UK




The quality of medical care in the UK is undeniably high, owing to its world-class facilities and human medical resources. Healthcare is free to anyone normally residing in the UK, including holders of work permits and their dependants. 

Generally speaking, healthcare in the United Kingdom is administered by the National Health Service or NHS. However, each country within the UK namely Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England has its system of publicly funded healthcare. These so-called separate systems are funded by individual governments as well as parliaments together with the private sector and voluntary provisions. Because each country has various policies and ways of implementation, expats bound to the UK should expect a difference between the healthcare systems. Despite the similarities in the system of health services, the National NHS remains one of the most reliable in the world. In fact, United Kingdom’s NHS ranked as the best healthcare system in the world in 2014 with an impressive score in several categories such as quality of care and efficiency of services. 

Understanding the National Health Services 

The National Health Service is considered as the oldest and largest single-payer healthcare care in the world that operates under the supervision of the Department of Health. Generally speaking, most foreign nationals in the UK are eligible for NHS services including those with British work permit, from EU member states and countries where the UK has reciprocal agreements such as New Zealand and Australia. Citizens of the EU that have valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can also get healthcare and emergency services free of charge. 

Emergency hospital services are free in the UK, but expats are still required to register with the National Health Services. The registration process includes applying for an NHS number. Foreign assignees in the UK must make an appointment and fill out the necessary forms, after which, they will receive an NHS number (by post) within a few weeks. As of April 2017, hospitals have been required by law to check whether the patient is covered or eligible for the NHS free care. Expats must present their passport, visa or British work permit to prove their eligibility before receiving free non-urgent care. 

Doctors and Medical Services 

NHS provides free hospital care and medical consultations to most residents including primary care, in-patient care, long-term healthcare, ophthalmology and dentist. This national system also uses a wide network of General Practitioners that serve as the people’s primary care provider that issues referrals to specialists if further services are necessary. Upon receiving their NHS number, expats must register with a GP but under the national healthcare system, long waits are common and it would normally take around 48 hours to one week before a patient can see a GP. To look for a doctor in the UK, expats can visit the website of the British Medical Association

Expats who are not comfortable with the long queue in public hospitals or are not qualified for the NHS can take out private health insurance which will cover their medical expenses in UK’s private hospitals. 

Hospitals in the United Kingdom 

The NHS alone deals with over one million patients every 36 hours and has a recorded 16.252 million hospital admissions between 2015 and 2016. There are about 1,880 hospitals in England, 100 hospitals in Wales, 200 in Scotland and around 25 in Northern Ireland which means that the UK has an estimated total of 2,205 hospitals. Some of the top hospitals in the United Kingdom are listed below: 

Great Maze Pond London SE1 9RT

Tel: 020 7188 7188

Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7EH

Tel: 020 7188 7188 

Fulham Road, London SW3 6JJ

Tel: 020 7352 8171 

Lisburn Rd, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Tel: +44 28 9032 9241 

Heath Park, Cardiff, Wales

Tel: +44 29 2074 7747 

1345 Govan Rd, Govan, Glasgow, Scotland

Tel: +44 141 201 1100 


There are three categories of medicines in the UK: prescribed by a doctor, sold under the supervision of a pharmacist, and those that are freely available in supermarkets and newsagents. And for this, one goes to the pharmacy. NHS prescriptions for medicines are charged at a fixed rate. Free prescriptions apply to people who are under 16, a pensioner (men over 65, women over 60), a student under 19, pregnant women, permanently disabled or those with certain medical conditions and on a low income. All prescriptions are free in Wales.


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