The National Health Service (NHS) is a state-run health service providing free healthcare to eligible UK residents. It does not provide free dental or optical care. Most people have to pay a standard charge for medicine that a doctor prescribes.
Who is eligible?
You are eligible for NHS care if:
- you are an EU/EEA student
- you are a non EU/EEA student enrolled on a course of study for six months or more
- you are a non EU/EAA student from a country with a reciprocal arrangement with the UK
The NHS provides free treatment to anyone for psychiatric emergencies or if there has been a serious accident. It does not provide free follow-up treatment after an accident.
How does it work?
If you are eligible for healthcare, you will need to register with a local doctor/general practitioner (GP) in the area that you live.
Students staying in University of Westminster Halls of Residence are given advice about how and when to register with a GP.
You will need to contact the GP of your choice to see if they are accepting new patients. You will then be asked to go to the clinic to register. You will be asked to take some documents (eg proof of residency, the course you are enrolled on, your student ID or your passport). You will be asked to fill in a form about you and your health history. A simple check-up will be arranged with a nurse.
What are the benefits?
Registration entitles you to:
- free consultation with your GP
- free hospital treatment in Accident and Emergency (A&E), Minor Injuries & Walk-in Units
- free hospital treatment with a specialist or consultant, if recommended by your GP
- free contraception and sexual health services
- free maternity services
Getting an appointment with a hospital specialist can take many weeks, even if your GP has referred you. Many people in the UK choose to take out private medical insurance so they can be seen more quickly but this can be expensive.
Medications and prescriptions
We do not have a pharmacy within Student Health Services, but the nurses are experienced practitioners and are able to offer advice on self-medication, emergency contraception and homeopathic remedies. Often an over-the-counter medication is cheaper than a prescribed medicine. Prescription charges are currently £8.05 per item (for an NHS prescription). For private prescriptions there is a £10 charge plus the cost of medication. Many medicines are available over the counter, apart from the oral contraceptive pill and antibiotics.
Homeopathic treatments are available at many high street stores including Boots and Holland & Barrett. Specially trained pharmacists are available at the Ainsworth’s Homeopathic Pharmacy, close to our Cavendish Campus.
If you have a long-standing health problem, or require regular prescription medicine, please ensure you have a summary of your medical condition and needs from your previous doctor. Some medicines are different in this country, or may not be regularly prescribed for certain conditions. Register with a doctor as soon as possible after your arrival or visit the Student Health Services for help and advice.
Travelling and health
If you go on holiday within the UK, you are eligible for treatment anywhere. Make sure you take your NHS card or number with you. In an emergency you can see a GP anywhere – or visit the local A&E, Minor Injuries or Walk-in Unit.
If you go travelling within the European Union (EU), you may be eligible for free medical treatment, but you must first obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It is free and allows you to access medical help at a reduced cost while you’re travelling abroad. The easiest way to apply is online, by visiting the NHS healthcare abroad webpages Student Health Services also provide registration forms for the EHIC card.
Note that you cannot apply for an EHIC until you have registered on the NHS. If you are not entitled to the EHIC, ensure you take out private health insurance before travelling.
If you go travelling outside the EU/EEA, visit the Department of Health website to check whether the country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK. If there is no reciprocal arrangement, you must take out private health insurance. Extreme sports (eg bungee jumping, tomb-stoning) and many snow or water sports require additional insurance.