The National Health Service (NHS) is world-famous for the high-quality medical care that it provides the residents of the United Kingdom.
British Citizens and “ordinary residents” with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status can access the NHS public healthcare system for free (the NHS is supported from National Insurance Contributions).
A temporary legal resident of the United Kingdom (such as an international student or temporary foreign worker) can also access the NHS, but they will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
If an international student or temporary foreign worker receives ILR status or British citizenship, then they can also access the NHS for free (i.e., through the National Insurance Contributions).
The majority of healthcare services provided though the NHS are free, but there is a small fee of about £9 (nine British Pounds) for prescriptions in England (prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and very reasonable fees are charged for dental care.
Children under 18 years of age who are living in the UK receive free dental care.
The first point of contact for medical care in the UK is usually the local general practitioner, unless there is an emergency.
A referral from the local general practitioner is normally needed to receive treatment in a hospital or to visit a specialist.
The NHS offers mental health services for free, but a referral from a general practitioner may be required, while a person can sometimes refer himself/herself for mental healthcare.
Examples of mental healthcare services available through the NHS include psychological counseling and therapy, mental health services for children, alcohol and drug treatment, and treatment for eating disorders.
People living in the UK can pay for private healthcare insurance if they want, however, only about 10% choose this option.
Having private healthcare can allow a person to spend less time waiting to see a specialist and may give them access to better facilities or to private rooms (instead of sharing a hospital room with another patient).
Individuals living in the UK with private healthcare insurance pay premiums that are usually based on a person’s age, lifestyle, any pre-existing medical conditions they have, and the level of coverage that select to have.
NHS hospitals are free, while private hospitals usually charge a fee for their services.
There are also general hospitals in the UK (for emergency treatment, surgery, maternity services, care for the elderly, and outpatient services) and specialist hospitals (for example, orthopedic hospitals, eye hospitals, etc.).
The NHS has about 80 walk-in health clinics throughout the UK which are open 7 days a week where UK residents can go to receive treatment for minor illness or injuries, such as bruises, minor cuts, burns, fractures and infections.
There are many independent pharmacies across the UK, as well as pharmacies located in supermarkets or retails stores.
Some medicines can be purchased over the counter at a pharmacy, while other medicines require a prescription from a general practitioner.
A flat fee is paid for prescriptions in England, while prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Pharmacies in the UK are normally open until about 10pm or 11pm, however, some pharmacies in big cities are open 24 hours a day.
If you need to report a medical emergency in the UK, dial 999.
The Accident and Emergency (A & E) Department of hospitals is open 24 hours per day.