Medical & National Health Service (NHS)

Healthcare in the UK is usually very good and generally free of charge for most UK residents.

There are two types of healthcare providers in the UK:

National Health Service

www.nhs.uk

If you pay National Insurance as a resident, you are entitled to use NHS services, which include: doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, eye exams, counseling, family planning, and infant/child clinics. To use NHS services, you must first register. You will need your or your spouse’s National Insurance Number (often obtained by your or his or her company).

You will need to register with a doctor/GP in your postcode. A list of GPs is available at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/localisation. Call the doctor’s office in your neighborhood (there may be more than one so choose which you prefer) and let them know you need to register; they will schedule an appointment for you. Once you have registered, you will receive an NHS number in the mail if they decide to accept you as a patient. You can then visit the doctor, though appointments may not be available for several weeks, depending on the office.

NHS Direct is a phone service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which offers information on doctors, hospitals, and dentists. The line also has nurses available to advise on medical symptoms over the phone.

Private doctors

Private doctors are much more expensive than NHS doctors, but you are typically able to get an appointment more quickly and you can visit the doctor of your choice. Though many companies offer insurance to cover private care, you can purchase private coverage if your company doesn’t offer it.

BUPA is probably the most popular company. Note that many private doctors and hospitals require payment when treatment/services are received and then you must submit the receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Emergencies

In the case of emergency, go to the A&E of the closest NHS hospital. If it is a serious emergency, call 999 and ask for ambulance service. Emergency service is provided for free by the NHS and is available to both residents and tourists. Some of the largest hospitals with A&E are:

  • St. Mary’s Hospital (Praed Street, W2)
  • Chelsea & Westminster Hospital (369 Fulham Road, SW10) – Also has a children’s A&E
  • Hammersmith Hospital (Du Cane Road, W12)
  • University College Hospital (235 Euston Street, NW1)

There is also a private hospital at The Princes Grace Hospital for patients who wish to pay and are guaranteed service within 15 minutes of arrival: The Urgent Care Center (42-52 Nottingham Place, W1U 5NY) 020 7258 3456