Healthcare for students in the UK

According to Numbeo, the UK ranks 16th in the world for the quality of healthcare, ahead of Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.

The National Health Service (NHS) provides patients with modern and quality treatment, which is free of charge in most cases, even for international students. Let’s explore how the UK healthcare system works and what to do if you feel unwell.


  1. Immigration Health Surcharge
  2. Free and paid services
  3. Register with a GP
  4. In case you feel unwell
  5. Useful links


Immigration Health Surcharge

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a fee you must pay when applying for your student visa. It gives you the right to use free healthcare services in the UK as if you were a UK resident.

The IHS for a student visa costs £470 per year. The exact amount depends on the length of your visa (not the length of your course):

  • 6 months or less (when applying from outside the UK) – you do not have to pay for IHS. In this case, you will have to pay for the healthcare services you use (except for the services that are free for everyone). Therefore, it is highly recommended to arrange private travel insurance.
  • 6 months or less (when applying from inside the UK) – 50% of the yearly cost.
  • More than 6 but less than 12 months – you will have to pay for the whole year.
  • 18 months or less – 150% of the yearly cost.
  • More than 18 months but less than 2 years – you will have to pay for two years.

Read more about IHS on the UK government website 




Free and paid services

If you have paid the surcharge, almost all healthcare services in the UK are free for you, including doctor visits, emergency care, hospital treatment, mental health services, sexual health services and contraception. Covid-19 vaccination is also free for everyone aged 18 or over, regardless of nationality or immigration status.

However, sometimes you will have to pay for the following services:

The cost of dental treatment and exceptions vary in each country within the UK:

Northern Ireland 



Register with a GP

GP (general practitioner) surgeries are usually the first contact if you have a health problem. If you want to visit a narrow specialist such as a gynaecologist or cardiologist, you should come to GP first. Only GP can refer you to another doctor, but sometimes it is not really necessary. Many conditions can be treated by GP. They also take the necessary tests and give health advice.

To access health services quickly and easily while you’re away from home, it is better to register with a GP in the area you live. It is essential if you have an ongoing health condition, such as asthma or diabetes. You can also choose a GP not from your area, but a GP surgery can refuse to register you if their capacity is limited and they are not accepting patients from outside their area.

Many universities also have health centres so you can register with a GP attached to your university.

Find a GP in England 

You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number to register. However, it will be helpful to have a passport and your accommodation address.

In case you feel unwell

Remember, you should use 999 only when there is a serious or life-threatening emergency.

If you are ill or injured and it is not a serious or life-threatening emergency, there are many options of healthcare available to you:

  • Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it is not a life-threatening situation. You can also go to or call 111 if you are not sure which NHS service you need. The number is available 24/7.
  • Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
  • Go to a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent treatment centre, if you have a minor illness or injury (cuts, sprains or rashes) and it cannot wait until your GP surgery is open.
  • Ask a local pharmacist for advice – a pharmacist can give you advice about many common minor illnesses, such as diarrhoea, minor infections, headaches, sore throats, or travel health.
  • Make an appointment with your GP if you feel unwell and it is not an emergency.
  • If you need psychological help, use mental health helplines, therapy and counselling services.


Useful links

List of services and contacts in England

List of services and contacts in Wales 

List of services and contacts in Scotland

List of services and contacts in Northern Ireland 

We hope that your stay in the United Kingdom will be safe and secure!

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