International students studying in the UK have to pay the immigration health surcharge as part of their Tier 4 Visa application. Courses lasting over 6 months require payment of £300 per annum, courses shorter than 6 months lower this price to £150.
Paying for the immigration health surcharge allows international students to access the NHS the same way as a permanent UK resident. Majority of the NHS services are free and otherwise provided at a comparatively lower cost.
The National Health Service is the main healthcare provider within the UK. It was established in 1948 and provides mostly free care for the residents of the UK. The NHS is the largest health service in the world and the fourth-largest employer. The other 3 are; The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Indian Railways, and Wal-Mart.
Primary and secondary care are the main two divisions of the NHS, each of these divisions have their primary trusts which aid with the care of that specific level. Commissioning trusts assist care provided to the local population while the provider trusts help the health care practices that provide services to the public.
NHS uses the trusts to purchase services in the public and private sector, the most common and well-known ones are; Hospitals, General Practice, community nursing, local clinics, as well as mental health services.
Most of the NHS services are free, however, users of the NHS still may need to pay for dental care, eye exams and prescriptions. This cost is significantly lower when compared to private healthcare providers in the UK.
General Practice services (GPs) are the primary care provider. You should register with a GP as soon as you arrive in the UK. Visit the GP for health checkups, if you’ve fallen ill or have any health issues which do not require immediate care. It is common for GPs to refer you to specialist clinics and hospitals if there is a specific need (e.g. to get an x-ray or for physical therapy).
Registering with a GP can take up to a month, so if you need to see a doctor before you have registered with a GP you can visit a walk-in clinic. Such places are GP run centres, usually open 365 days per year and for extended hours. You can see a doctor the same day as you walk in, however, you may need to wait a few hours to be seen as these centres work by prioritising emergencies and first-come-first-served basis.
Alternatively, you can call 111. This is a medical helpline for non-emergencies, where you can get advice on what to do if you are sick. If the operator deems it necessary, they can call an ambulance or book an appointment for you in a hospital or clinic.
Emergency care is available to all people in the UK, you can call 999 or 112 if you require urgent care. The UK has great hospitals which will ensure that you are looked after and receive the care you need.
The NHS is quite simple to navigate, we recommend that you visit the NHS website and find out all the amazing services and care that it provides. You can also speak to the international student affairs office if you have any questions about the services that you are eligible for.