How can Foreigners in the UK Access Health System

07 Oct 2019 - Category: Blog /
British health system

When you move to a new place — whether on a short-term or a long-term visit — you need to anticipate the exigencies that may come your way. After all, you never know when you may catch flu, or in worse cases, meet with an accident. So while you are all set to expose yourself to a whole new atmosphere, you must consider that it could eventually show up on your health.

Plus, while you are away from home, it’s always better to have a clue about the local Healthcare system. In the UK, National Health Service (NHS) is the public sector healthcare services provider and is committed to public welfare. Let us now discuss further about the healthcare facilities available to foreigners in the UK.

Who can avail the services of NHS?

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of confusion about the basis on which the NHS classifies individuals. If you are moving to London, then you need to have absolute clarity on this. So we are going to break that down and make it as simple as possible.

NHS does not take into account your nationality, tax paying ability, or the properties that you might own in the UK. As a matter of fact, NHS offers its services based only on one criteria and that’s residency. So foreign nationals are further classified into two — ordinarily resident or overseas visitors and the services are provided accordingly.

Foreign Nationals from the EEA or Switzerland

Those from the Europe Union (EU), Europe Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland need not bother about too many formalities when it comes to availing the services of NHS. All you need is a valid Europe Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card, and with that you can avail most NHS services free of cost. This includes treatment for maternity routine check-ups and other ailments that you many already have.

However, it is recommended that you do not skip the travel insurance because everything isn’t covered. Also, while using the NHS services in the UK, you must note that you may have to wait for quite some time until your appointment. If you wish to avoid that, you can always consider an insurance policy that covers private healthcare.

When does the NHS consider a Non-EEA National as Ordinarily Resident?

If you are from the Non-EEA region, then you must know that since April, 2015 quite a few healthcare regulations in the UK have changed. However, if you are termed as ‘Ordinarily resident’ then you can look forward to certain relaxations.

If you are wondering who can be termed as ‘Ordinarily Resident’, then that includes those individuals from the Non-EEA region, who have been granted the right to remain indefinitely in the UK. However, if you have a family member who is an EEA National, then you can by-pass the restrictions posed by immigration control.

Foreign nationals desirous of staying in UK for more than 6 months need to pay a certain additional amount known as Immigration Health Service Surcharge (IHS) along with their visa application. This varies between £300 and £400 paid annually, unless exempt.

Emergency Healthcare Services 

To begin with, NHS makes Emergency Healthcare Services in the UK, absolutely free through the Accident and Emergency (A&E) units. This is regardless of one’s residency or nationality, but is limited only to emergency healthcare. You also need to bear in mind that only select hospitals have the A&E units so make sure to enquire. To avail these services, or to book an ambulance service, or for any further information, you can call 999.

How much do prescriptions cost?

Depending upon your residency, you may or may not qualify for primary and secondary healthcare services offered by the NHS. While we have discussed that in detail, you also need to know about the next step — finding a pharmacy. The easiest way to do that is by finding one at the nearest supermarket.

Now, the next question is whether you need to pay a prescription fee, and the answer is both yes and no. To begin with, there’s absolutely no prescription fee that needs to be paid in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However, you may have to pay some if you are in England, but only in certain cases.

So, the next step for you would be to check whether you qualify for an exemption on the prescription fee in England. No matter how expensive London is, but the NHS makes sure that medical care is available to anyone who needs it, and that too at affordable prices.

According to statistics, an average UK citizen pays almost half of what an American pays for healthcare services, when calculated on an annual basis. Now that’s how well citizens in the UK are taken care of. However, if you are heading to the UK on a vacation, then make it a point to buy travel insurance. After all, the Authorities in the UK frown upon health tourism and have been constantly trying to discourage it.

If you are about to visit or relocate to London, then you need to plan your budget well in advance. As you do that, it is more than likely that you are going to be worried about managing your living expenses. After all, London is one of the most expensive cities to live in and no amount of analysis is going to give you the exact breakdown of your future expenses — not until you get there. So if you plan to stay longer, then try to figure out the NHS facilities that you qualify for, which is a great way to manage unforeseen expenses.

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