Health and healthcare

Last modified: 15 September 2017

Arriving in a new country is a very busy time for international students and there are a lot of changes to go through. For example, there are differences in food, weather and customs to cope with. In this type of situation, with all its stresses, you can find yourself paying less attention than usual to your health.

Existing health problems can also be made worse by the effects of adjusting to unfamiliar food, a different climate and the emotional strains of being away from home. It can be easy to concentrate on your studies and forget about taking care of yourself.

This section aims to give advice on looking after yourself, as well as practical information on how to obtain medical treatment. It also explains international students’ entitlement to free medical treatment under the UK state health system. It describes the different options such as Accident & Emergency, visiting your GP and hospital appointments.

Reminder: the accident and emergency department is for emergencies only, if you are unsure you should call NHS 111 first or visit your pharmacy, they will be able to advise you. If you are in Wales, then instead of calling NHS 111, call NHS Direct Wales. If you are in Northern Ireland, then instead of calling NHS 111, call Northern Ireland's out of hours service. 

How the UK medical system works

Last modified: 15 September 2017

Register with a GP

Last modified: 07 September 2016

When you arrive in the UK you should register with a local doctor as soon as you can. Do not wait until you are ill. Click on the information below to find out how to do this.

How to register with a local doctor (‘GP’, General Practitioner)

Who can register?

Appointments with a doctor

NHS Debt and Immigration

Last modified: 24 September 2015

Since October 2011, the immigration rules have included provisions to refuse immigration applications by some people, if they have an outstanding unpaid invoice for NHS treatment.

See our information about General grounds for refusal


Last modified: 09 February 2016

Even if you are entitled to free NHS treatment whilst in the UK, you should consider taking out insurance which covers other medical-related costs. An insurance policy may cover, for example:

  • lost fees if you are unable to complete your course;
  • costs of returning home if a relative is ill;
  • costs of a relative visiting you in the UK if you fall ill;
  • cost of returning to your home country for treatment;
  • or in the worst possible situation, returning a body home for burial.

There is often a long wait for NHS treatment, sometimes many months. An insurance policy which gives you access to private medical care could give you much quicker access to the treatment you need.

If you already have medical insurance in your home country, check whether you can extend it to cover your stay in the UK, as well as looking at options available from UK insurers.

Addresses and contacts

Last modified: 04 September 2015