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Arriving in the UK for the first time is exciting, but you might pay less attention to your health than usual as you adjust to your new lifestyle. This page gives you tips on looking after your health in the UK and where to obtain medical treatment and advice.

Before you arrive in the UK

  • Vaccinations:
    Most UK students have the Meningitis C vaccination before they start university. It is a good idea to get the Meningitis C vaccination before you come to the UK, especially if you are under the age of 25 and plan to live in halls of residence. If you do not have the vaccination when you come to the UK, you should ask your doctor for it when you register.
  • X-rays for Tuberculosis:
    If you come from a country that has a high incidence of Tuberculosis (these countries currently include Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, and Thailand) you should bring an X-ray with you that is no more than six months old. You will need to show the X-ray at the UK arrival airport when you go through the Health Control Unit. If you are from a country with Tuberculosis and you don’t have a recent X-ray, you will have one taken at the airport, but this can take several hours.
  • Medical records and medication:
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    If you take regular medication, you should bring enough supplies to the UK to last you a few months. It is a good idea to ask your doctor for medical records, or at least a record of the prescriptions that you need, in order to access the medication in the UK. The medical records should be in English.

The National Health Service (NHS)

The NHS is the UK’s government-run health service, which provides treatment and healthcare for UK residents. Many NHS services are free of charge, such as consultations with a doctor, family planning and emergency treatment at NHS hospitals. There is a standard charge for prescribed medicines, which is currently £7.65 per item.

If you are an international student on a full-time course of six months or more, you and your spouse and children can use the NHS on the same basis as UK nationals.

Registering with a doctor

You must register with a doctor (also called a General Practitioner or GP) in order to use the NHS. GPs are doctors who are trained and experienced in diagnosing a wide range of health problems. The doctor/GP will be based in a local office (called a surgery) or in a health centre.

You should register with a GP within the first two of weeks of your arrival in the UK, even if you do not feel ill. This is because GPs cannot normally give appointments to people who are not registered at their surgery, except in the case of emergencies.

To register with a GP, simply visit your local GP surgery with the following documents (you do not need to pay to register):

  • Passport
  • Evidence that you are a student (for example, your enrolment letter or NUS card)
  • Proof of your UK address (for example, accommodation contract or tenancy agreement).

You should register at a GP surgery close to ISH, you can search for your closest GP surgery on the NHS website (The postcodes are W1W 5PN for GPS and NW1 4QH for MTH). Some GP surgeries are full, so you may need to try a few different surgeries in your area.

Students on courses for less than six months

If you are an international student in the UK for less than six months, you cannot receive free medical care on the NHS, except for emergency treatment. The only exemptions to this rule are students from a European Economic Area (EEA) country or a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK. For more information visit the Department of Health website.

If you are coming to the UK for less than six months, you should apply for health insurance in your own country to cover your time in the UK.


To call an ambulance, dial 999 free-of-charge from any telephone. If you have an accident you should go to the ‘Accident and Emergency’ (A&E) department of the nearest hospital. A&E departments are very busy and you will probably need to wait, so you should only go there if it is an emergency. Do not go to A&E if you have minor illnesses and injuries medicine – for these problems you should make an appointment with your GP.

NHS walk-in centres

NHS walk-in centres provide healthcare advice and treatment. Patients do not need to make an appointment. Nurses at the walk-in centres can help you with minor illnesses (for example a cold, flu and stomach upsets) and minor injuries (for example sprains, small cuts and bruises). They can also give you health advice and information. There are eight NHS walk-in centres in London. For more information visit the NHS walk-in centre website.

NHS Direct

NHS Direct is a 24-hour phone line, staffed by nurses who can offer you quick medical advice or put you in touch with the right service if you need further help. Visit the NHS Direct website or phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice about common illnesses and treatments for them.

Dental Treatment

If you are entitled to NHS treatment, you might still need to make a contribution towards the cost of your dental treatment. If you are not entitled to NHS treatment, or the dentist you choose does not take NHS patients (some dentists will only accept private patients), you will need to pay for the full cost of your treatment.

Optical treatment

Eye care is provided by opticians who usually operate from high-street shops. You will normally need to pay a minimum charge for an eye test on the NHS (around £20). If the eye test shows that you need glasses or contact lenses, the optician will give you a prescription. The cost of frames and lenses varies considerably. For more information, visit the NHS website.
Medical help for Chinese students in the UK

The Chinese National Healthy Living Centre was set up to support the Chinese community in the UK. The Centre offers medical help and advice to students in the Chinese language, such as:

  • Multi-lingual helpline - 0845 601 6030
  • Sunday Surgery – free NHS doctor on Sundays from 11.00-16.00
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Disability and carers support
  • Interpreting service – help with communicating with your GP
  • Counselling and information services

Address: 29-30 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QS
Tel: 020 7287 0904 or 020 7534 6546

Useful Words

  • National Health Service (NHS):  the UK’s free health care system for all UK citizens.
  • General Practitioner (GP):  Doctors who work in the local community.
  • GP surgery / GP practice:  The place where GPs work.
  • Accident and Emergency (A&E):  The department in a hospital that deals with emergency treatment