International students - A guide to The National Health Service (NHS)
The National Health Service (NHS) might seem very complicated if you have not used the system before. The NHS is a public funded system which provides health care for residents in the United Kingdom (UK).
1. Who is entitled to free health care treatment from the NHS?
You are entitled to free necessary treatment from the NHS if you are either:
- a full time student from any country on a course for more than 6 months
- studying on a course of any duration which is substantially funded by the UK Government
- from a country which is part of the European Union (EU) *
- from a country which is not from the European Union (EU) that has a bilateral agreement
- the husband or wife of any of the above and living here whilst your wife or husband is a student
- a dependent of any of the above: A dependent is any child under 16 or under 19 if in full time education
More information and a list of countries with bilateral arrangements can be found at the Department of Health website.
* If you are a student from another country in the European Union, here for less than 6 months, you will require a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which must be obtained from your home country.
2. Will I need health care insurance?
If you are not covered by any of the above it is advisable to ensure you have adequate health care insurance as payment will be necessary if you receive any health care in this country.
The following services are free of charge for everyone:
- Emergency treatment in any Accident and Emergency department.
- Emergency treatment in any NHS Walk-in Centre providing Accident and Emergency type services.
- Treatment for certain infectious diseases.
- Compulsory psychiatric treatment.
- Family planning services (sexual health).
3. How do I register for health care?
To access health care you will need to register with a General Practitioner (G.P.) doctor. Most G.P.s work in a health centre. G.P.s are general doctors who have specialised in family health. He or she is therefore qualified to see anyone from small babies to the elderly. The University advises students to register at the Freemen’s Common Health Centre. Doctors, nurses and administrative staff at the Freemen’s Common Health Centre have expertise in ‘student health’ and they work closely with the University to support students at times of ill health.
Information about the Freemen’s Common Health Centre and how to register can be found on their website www.le.ac.uk/healthcentre The Freemen’s Common Health Centre usually have registration sessions during the first week of the academic year in halls of residence. It is advisable to register during your first week. However, if this is not possible, registration can be done at any time. When you register, the health centre will require your address in Leicester, the date you came into the country, your library card or proof of registration with the University.
Freemen’s Common Health Centre will register students and staff living locally. Information about other health centres can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/servicedirectories/pages/servicesearch.aspx
Once you have registered with a G.P. / health centre you will be sent an NHS card. This is proof that you are registered for NHS treatment. If you have not received the card within two months of registering, contact the health centre who will advise what you should do. The card will be sent to the address you provided so it is essential that you notify the health centre if your address changes. When you receive the card, keep it safe and take it with you if you visit the health centre, dentist or hospital.
4. Will I have to pay to register?
- Registration is free
- You can only be registered with one G.P. / Health Centre at any time.
If you are exempt from NHS Charges and require hospital care you will need to provide your passport, visa, NHS card and proof of attendance at university.
5. Health care for family or friends visiting from abroad.
Family or friends visiting from abroad should take adequate health care insurance if they are not eligible for a European Health Insurance Card. The Freemen’s Common Health Centre will usually register and see visitors as temporary residents if they require urgent necessary care.
6. What if I have a diagnosed condition or awaiting diagnosis?
If when you come to University you have a pre existing condition, are already under the care of a ‘specialised’ team either receiving treatment or waiting for an appointment, it is still advisable to register at the Freemen’s Common Health Centre. On arrival, once registered, make an appointment to discuss with one of the G.P.’s who will then be in a better position to help while you are here in Leicester and to communicate with the relevant doctors.
If you require more specialised or hospital services you will need to be referred by a G.P.