Cookie Consent by
a stethoscope on a blue background

Health and Wellbeing

Healthcare in the UK: A Guide for International Students

By Konrad 11 Sep 2023

As you embark on your academic journey in the UK, ensuring your health and wellbeing is a top priority. The UK's healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS), is designed to provide comprehensive medical care to residents, including international students like you. 

a close up of a tiled floor

Understanding the NHS: Your Gateway to Healthcare

The NHS is a publicly funded healthcare system that provides medical services to residents of the UK, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. This means you have access to a wide range of medical services, from routine check-ups to emergency care, ensuring your health is well taken care of during your time in the UK. You may have been asked for payment to contribute to the system as part of the visa process. 

The Importance of Registering with a GP: Your Primary Healthcare Provider

A General Practitioner (GP) is your primary point of contact for non-emergency medical concerns. It's crucial to register with a local GP near your university accommodation. GPs offer a wide range of services, including routine check-ups, vaccinations, prescription refills, and referrals to specialists if needed. Registering with a GP ensures you have a healthcare provider who knows your medical history and can provide personalised care.

Pharmacy: not just for prescriptions and paracetamol…

Pharmacies in the UK play a vital role in providing accessible healthcare services to residents and international students alike. Beyond dispensing medications, pharmacies offer a range of over-the-counter remedies, health and wellness products, and essential medical supplies. Pharmacies are often conveniently located, making them a go-to resource for minor ailments and healthcare needs. Additionally, pharmacists are highly trained professionals who can provide valuable health advice and guidance. They can offer insights on managing common illnesses, recommend suitable over-the-counter medications, provide information on vaccinations, and offer lifestyle advice for maintaining overall well-being. 

a hand holding a cellphone

Using NHS 111: Expert Advice at Your Fingertips

NHS 111 is a non-emergency service available 24/7. If you have a health concern that is not life-threatening but requires immediate attention, you can call 111 to speak to a trained healthcare professional or go to the website to do a self assessment. They can provide advice, direct you to the appropriate healthcare service, or even schedule a same-day appointment with a GP or nurse if necessary.

Understanding Emergency Situations

When to Dial 999

In cases of life-threatening emergencies, dialing 999 is essential. This emergency number connects you to police, fire, ambulance, or coastguard services. Use this number when there is an immediate threat to life or severe injury, such as heart attacks, major accidents, and incidents involving loss of consciousness. Always remember that misuse of the emergency number can delay help for those who truly need it.

When Not to Use 999: Reserving Emergency Services for True Emergencies

It's important to exercise responsible use of the emergency number. Avoid dialling 999 for minor health concerns or non-urgent matters that can be addressed by a GP, NHS 111, pharmacists, or walk-in clinics. Using emergency services appropriately ensures that those facing life-threatening situations receive timely assistance.

Have a look at this article on the NHS website for more details: When to call 999

More info in this article.

Prioritising Your Health and Wellbeing

Understanding the UK's healthcare system empowers you to access the medical services you need to thrive during your time as an international student. Registering with a GP, utilising NHS 111 for non-emergencies, and knowing when to dial 999 are all key components of staying healthy and safe while you pursue your academic aspirations.

Wishing You a Healthy and Fulfilling Journey

As you embark on your academic adventure, remember that a healthy body and mind are essential for making the most of your university experience. By familiarising yourself with the healthcare resources available to you, you're taking proactive steps towards a successful and rewarding stay in the UK.

Student Health and Wellbeing Team