National Health Service (NHS) Guide For Students

Full-time international students who plan to study in the UK are covered by the NHS, or National Health Service. In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of medical coverage for international students studying in the UK.

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Medical Coverage For International Students In The UK

International students who are studying full-time in the UK are eligible for coverage by the National Health Service (NHS). However, this process is not automatic, and you will be required to apply first.

To access NHS services, international students will have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their visa application, which grants them access to NHS healthcare on the same basis as a UK resident.

What Is The National Health Service?

The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom. It was established in 1948 with the aim of providing comprehensive health and medical care free at the point of use for all UK residents. The NHS is primarily funded through general taxation and National Insurance contributions. The NHS offers a wide range of services, including general practitioner (GP) services, hospital care, dental care, emergency treatment, maternity services, and specialist treatments.

What's Covered In The NHS Service For International Students?

The NHS service for international students covers GP visits, emergency treatment, and hospital care. Dental and optical treatments are not included, and students who require those treatments need to buy their own private insurance. It is crucial for international students to understand their medical coverage options and requirements before arriving in the UK to ensure they have adequate healthcare access during their studies.

How To Contact NHS In Case Of An Emergency?

Here are the recommended steps for contacting NHS in case of an emergency, as per their website.

If you think it’s an emergency: Call 999 or find a nearest A&E.

If you need help, but it’s not an emergency:

  • get help from 111 online or call 111
  • find a pharmacist for advice on medicines or common problems like coughs, colds and rashes

What's The Process For Admission Into Hospital For International Students?

For international students in the UK covered by the NHS, the process for admission into a hospital is similar to that for UK residents. Here’s an outline of the typical steps:

  1. Assessment of Need: The first step is usually visiting a General Practitioner (GP) or a walk-in clinic if the student is feeling unwell. In emergency situations, students should go directly to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of a hospital.

  2. GP Referral: If the GP or clinic doctor believes that hospital treatment is necessary, they will refer the student to a hospital. For non-emergency situations, this referral is required for hospital admission.

  3. Emergency Admission: In urgent cases, such as accidents or sudden serious illness, students can be admitted directly to a hospital’s A&E department without a GP referral.

  4. NHS Coverage Verification: Upon admission, the hospital will verify the student’s eligibility for NHS treatment. This usually involves checking the student’s visa status and whether the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) has been paid as part of their visa application.

  5. Treatment and Hospital Stay: Once admitted, the student will receive the necessary medical treatment. Under the NHS, this treatment is typically free at the point of use.

  6. Discharge and Follow-Up: After treatment, the student will be discharged with appropriate instructions for follow-up care, which might include a GP visit or prescription medications.

What Medicines Are Covered Under NHS For International Students?

It depends. For prescription medicines under the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, international students who have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) are generally entitled to the same prescription benefits as UK residents and will not be charged.

Non-prescription medicines, such as medicines for common ailments like colds, headaches, or allergies, which do not require a prescription, are not covered by the NHS. These over-the-counter (OTC) medications must be purchased and paid for by the individual at a pharmacy.

My Child Is Admitted To A Hospital In The UK. How Can I Find Out More About Their Situation?

In the event of an emergency involving a student studying in the UK, there are several ways you might be contacted as a parent:

  1. Emergency Contact Information: Universities and colleges in the UK typically ask students to provide emergency contact information when they enrol. If you are listed as an emergency contact, the institution may notify you directly in case of a serious incident or health emergency involving your child.

  2. Hospital Notification: If the student is taken to a hospital, and they are conscious and able to communicate, they can request the hospital staff to contact you. In cases where the student is unable to provide consent due to their condition, hospitals often use the emergency contact information available to them.

  3. University or College Support Services: Student support services or international student offices at universities often play a role in emergency situations, especially if the student is living in university accommodation. They may contact you if they are aware of the emergency.

  4. Student’s Friends or Roommates: In some cases, your child’s friends, roommates, or peers might contact you if they are aware of the emergency and have your contact details.

In short, it’s highly recommended that your child has emergency contact details listed with the place of study, school services, close friends and roommates in case of an emergency.

Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Whether a student planning on studying in the UK should buy travel insurance for the duration of their study depends on various factors. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Healthcare Coverage: While students who pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their visa application have access to the National Health Service (NHS), travel insurance can cover additional health-related expenses not included in NHS coverage, such as medical repatriation, private healthcare, emergency dental treatment, or medical care while traveling outside the UK.

  2. Travel-Related Issues: Travel insurance can provide coverage for travel-related issues such as lost or stolen luggage, trip cancellations or interruptions, and emergency evacuation. These are not covered under the NHS.

  3. Duration of Stay: If the student’s stay in the UK includes traveling to other countries, either for leisure or study-related activities, travel insurance can be particularly beneficial.

  4. Peace of Mind: Having travel insurance can offer peace of mind, knowing that many unforeseen circumstances are covered, especially in cases of emergencies.

  5. Personal Health and Circumstances: If the student has existing health conditions or plans to engage in activities that might increase their risk of needing medical care, travel insurance can be a prudent choice.

In summary, while not mandatory, travel insurance can provide additional security and coverage for a range of situations that are not covered by the NHS. It’s advisable to carefully review the coverage details and consider personal circumstances before making a decision.


In conclusion, the NHS providers significant healthcare coverage for students planning on studying in the UK. Students and parents alike should be aware of the healthcare system in the UK, how it works, and prepare for emergency situations such as by providing emergency contact details to the relevant parties, to ensure a safe and healthy educational experience in the UK. If you have any further questions or enquiries about NHS or application, feel free to contact us.

For further information, visit the official NHS UK website below:

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