NHS (National Health Service)

NHS 111

This service is a fast and easy way to get the right help, whatever the time. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. Call 111 when you need medical help fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency, for example, if:

  • your GP surgery is closed
  • you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
  • you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call
  • you need health information or reassurance about what to do next

NHS Charges

Once registered with a GP, most care in the NHS is free at the time of delivery, with the following exceptions:

  • Prescription charge
  • Dentistry is free for full-time students up to their 19th birthday. Thereafter NHS subsidised charges are incurred
  • Optometry, including glasses and contact lenses

Students from overseas can register with a GP in the UK and receive free NHS treatment, as long as their course lasts at least six months and (for those with a visa) they have an IHS Reference number. However, the assessment or treatment under the NHS of any pre-existing condition, apparent or not apparent, before arrival to the UK will cause charges to be incurred. Charges depend on what assessments, investigations and procedures are carried out.

Students from the UK on a low income may qualify for help with certain health costs. Entitlement is based on an assessment of your circumstances, such as level of income, savings, etc. To claim, complete form HC1 'Claim for help with health costs'.

Further information about accessing help with NHS Costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme and how to apply is available here.

Information about the NHS for International Students

UK National Health Service (NHS)

GP (General Practitioner = Family Doctor) You should register with a GP as soon as possible after your arrival in Cambridge, perhaps even on your first day, even if you do not expect to need medical support or treatment during your time here. Please pick one from those available in the area by entering your Cambridge post code into the NHS web page. You can visit the practice to register or some practices are able to register you on-line. Please allow only one health issue per GP appointment, as each consultation with a GP is time-limited to 10 minutes.

Long-Term Health Conditions Bring with you documentary evidence from your doctor (in English) as confirmation for any existing long-term health conditions. If you have any long term health concerns, you should ask for an appointment to discuss your needs. The GP will give you all the relevant health information you need.

Ongoing Medication If you are receiving medical treatment or taking medication, bring with you a doctor's certificate (in English) confirming the treatment and/or any medication you are receiving. If you need ongoing medication in the UK, the GP receptionist will explain how they arrange repeat prescriptions for when you are anticipating your first supply of medication to run out. It can take up to 48hrs to obtain a repeat prescription. (Some practices have an arrangement with a local Pharmacist so that you can pick up the items from the Pharmacy, without taking the prescription from the practice to the Pharmacy yourself.)

GPs reserve the right not to prescribe certain medication and not all medication from outside the UK is available on the NHS. Your GP will sometimes be unable to prescribe the medication you are taking, because it is not used here or because of NHS prescribing restrictions. If you have specialised medication or you are in any doubt, you are advised to bring a supply with you.

Private Medical Insurance Addenbrooke's payment office advises all overseas students to take out private health insurance before coming to the UK to cover the following potential health-related costs:

  • Loss of fees if you are unable to complete your course
  • Additional treatment and medical expenses not covered by the National Health Service
  • Costs of returning home if a relative is taken ill
  • Costs of a relative visiting you in the UK if you fall ill
  • Returning to your home country for treatment

Emergency NHS Treatment UK NHS care and treatment can be given universally in an emergency. In the UK, it is important to only use the Accident and Emergency department (A&E / ER / Casualty) of a hospital for the treatment of true life-threatening or limb-threatening conditions.

Other illnesses and injuries are dealt with by:

  • GPs (General Practitioner = family doctor)
  • the NHS 111 service by telephoning 111
  • Your local Pharmacists

If attending hospital, you will need to take your passport, visa and College letter of acceptance with you.

NHS Entitlement You are entitled to free National Health Service care and treatment whilst in the UK if your course is both full-time and lasts six months or more. If this is the case, entitlement also applies to your family members (spouse/civil partner and your children). To be entitled, family members are required both to live with you for the duration of your course (although settling in time is permitted before you send for them) and to have the correct UK visas. You are also entitled to specialist care from the NHS, as long as it is for the treatment of a condition that is not pre-existing, i.e. not a condition that existed before your entry to the UK.

NHS Costs and Charges NHS care and treatment are not entirely free, although children under 16 years old, or under 19 years old and in full-time education, are exempt from the following treatment charges:

  • Dental care - heavily subsidised and all dentists have to agree a price with you before beginning treatment, a checkup is around £18
  • Eye care - subsidised too, but not as much as dentistry
  • NHS prescription charges - currently set at just over £8 for each item printed on the prescription, for example, any quantity of the same medication. This charge is paid to the Pharmacist when you go to the Pharmacy to collect your medication.

Specialist NHS Treatment Once registered with a GP at one of the local GP Practices / Surgeries, specialist NHS care is then arranged by your GP. If attending hospital, you will need to take your passport, visa and College letter of acceptance with you.
The British Council has useful health advice for International Students.

Dental Care

Although registration with a Dentist is not required, UK Dentists keep lists of regular patients to enable them to provide ongoing treatment and care both under the NHS and privately.

The College recommends that all students continue their dental care with a Cambridge dentist, either at the University Dental Service or elsewhere. This avoids time taken obtaining treatment away from Cambridge and reduces the likelihood of emergency dental work being required.

University Dental Service 3 Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1QA. Tel: 01223 332860

To find alternative local dentists use NHS Choices.

Download Information about the NHS for International Students as a pdf file

Further information on UK Health and UK Healthcare for International students is available here.