Medical care in the UK: terms of treatment, insurance, medical tourism

United Kingdom


Medical care in the UK: terms of treatment, insurance, medical tourism

Are you planning to move to London, study in Glasgow, or work in Liverpool? Whether you are coming to the UK for the short or long term, it is important to understand how the healthcare system works.

Read the new UK immigration rules for international students here.

European Health Insurance Card. Read here how to get preferential medical care in the EU countries.

How to get a work visa in the UK: types of permits and basic requirements.

General information about health care in the UK

The U.K. healthcare system is a universal, residency-based system. It is financed mainly by taxes and is generally free to all legal residents of the UK who use the public services of the National Health Service (NHS). If they wish, they can take advantage of private health insurance. 
Health care in the UK is largely devolved, which means that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland make their own decisions about the organization of health services. 
The national health care system is largely based on free care, although patients are charged for some types of care.
This care includes:
consultations with general practitioners or specialists;
hospitalization and rehabilitative care;
dental care;
eye care;
eyeglasses and contact lenses;
prescribed medications;
transportation costs;
preventive care;
long-term care.

What you need to know before you visit the U.K. for medical services

The NHS provides a full range of medical services, from general practice to specialized care in hospitals and for long-term illnesses. The British healthcare system provides access to most medical services for free, but on one condition: you must be registered with a general practitioner. Most therapists are integrated into practices with other doctors (health centers) and make few home visits, except for the very sick and those who are unable to move. However, if you are not registered with the NHS, remember to show your European Health Insurance Card.

How do I register with the NHS and with a therapist?

Whether you are in the UK for a short or long term, it is recommended that you register with the NHS to have access to free care. Otherwise, it's better to have very good insurance!
Registering with the National Health Service gives you an NHS number, a unique identifier that allows you to access healthcare services across the country. It appears on NHS documents, prescriptions, tests, etc., and makes it easy for NHS professionals to work with you.
1. Finding the right general practitioner 
Therapists work in medical centers that are part of the NHS. You can change them if you move or for personal reasons.
2. Registering with a Therapist
Once you have chosen a therapist, you need to complete a registration form (.pdf) and send it to the English NHS if you live in England, the Scottish NHS if you live in Scotland, etc.
You will need to enclose proof of identity and proof of address. The NHS will then assign you a unique number and create a medical card which will be given to your new therapist and you will receive confirmation of your NHS registration.

The cost of UK medical services

Prescription Costs
The cost of a prescription for a patient is £8.60. If you have multiple prescriptions and want to reduce the cost, you can take a 3-month or 12-month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) for £29.10 and £104 respectively.
Dental Treatment
The cost of dental treatment depends on what treatment you get for your mouth, teeth, and gums. There is a one-time fee for treatment, even if you need to visit the dentist more than once.
The fees fall into several categories:
1. Group 1 course of treatment: £20
This category includes an examination, diagnosis, and consultation, as well as minor preventive care. It also covers emergency treatment and first aid.
2. Group 2 course of treatment: £56
This category covers Category 1 procedures and procedures such as caries treatment, tooth extraction, etc.
3. Group 3 Treatment Course: £244
The last category covers procedures in the previous categories plus crowns, bridges, and other similar procedures.
However, you can take out private health insurance, which will allow you to get a quicker appointment with a therapist or specialist in your preferred geographical area.

The price of private care

Private care is more expensive than public care. A private consultation can cost anywhere from £75 to £250. The same is true for a specialist.
With the European Health Card, European Union citizens can benefit from free treatment from all therapists and NHS hospitals for the first three months of their stay.

Required Documents for UK Health Services

The English healthcare system has some positive aspects, the main one being free public sector (NHS) services. To get around the restrictions, many foreigners choose to take out appropriate insurance.
Travel insurance will be more than worthwhile, depending on the final arrangements to be made.
You can opt for private health insurance in England. Although this will allow you to avoid endless lines, this system also has certain disadvantages specific to the English system. Medicines and chronic illnesses are not covered. Finally, as with the NHS, you will have to go through a general practitioner to see a specialist, and you can only go to doctors in your insurance network.
International health insurance
You may also decide to take out international health insurance. This will allow you to be treated in England or elsewhere, which can be advantageous. In addition, you will avoid waiting lists and be able to choose the practitioner of your choice. Finally, they allow you to get insurance for maternity, optical or dental care, as well as medications and possible chronic conditions.

Recreational Tourism in the UK

UK medical tourism covers a wide range of procedures including surgeries (cosmetic and other), alternative medicine, dentistry, fertility treatments, preventive procedures, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and more.
The benefits of medical tourism to the UK:
Take advantage of better services and/or at more attractive prices than those applied in your own country;
take advantage of services that are not available in your own country;
Undergo medical treatment prohibited by the laws of your country of origin;
People with rare diseases can travel to the UK, where treatments are better researched.
As more than just hospitals, Britain's travel-oriented niche medical centers offer patients and their families or caregivers an environment conducive to recovery and wellness.
Typically, these facilities base their rankings on several aspects:
Expertise in the medical profession: emphasizing the professional training of doctors, the number of successful surgeries, and scientific studies performed.
Quality and certifications: travelers/patients prefer medical facilities with international quality certifications that meet international and local standards;
Zero wait time: immediate availability of medical appointments and doctors to assist patients;
Exquisite, personalized culinary service;
Availability of the latest medical technology;
Related programs: these facilities offer, in addition to medical care, the opportunity to enjoy a variety of tourist activities;
Quality of reception: more and more medical tourism establishments are focusing on hospitality management, a new approach based on the "human" aspect of customer relations.
Out of 40 countries, the Medical Tourism Index 2021 ranked Canada, the UK, Israel, Singapore, and India as the top 5 medical tourism destinations in the world.

Learn more about how to obtain British citizenship here.

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