When you can start to use the NHS?
You can start using the National Health Service (NHS) as soon as you enter the UK on your visa, but preferably wait until you have picked up your biometric residence permit (BRP Card) as you would normally need to show your BRP Card when you access healthcare in the UK. If you are sick and need to see a doctor, please do not let the lack of a BRP Card stop you from seeking medical attention.
You will still need to pay for certain types of services, such as prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests just like people who live in the UK.
This guidance is about NHS entitlements in England. The Scottish Government has published separate guidance on overseas visitors’ liability to pay charges for NHS care and services. Further information is also available regarding health services for overseas visitors in Wales.
How to get healthcare
If you're not sure how to get the help you need, use this checklist to guide you.
- Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you're not sure which NHS service you need.
- Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
- Go to a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent treatment centre, if you have a minor illness or injury (cuts, sprains or rashes) and it cannot wait until your GP surgery is open.
- Ask a local pharmacist for advice – a pharmacist can give you advice about many common minor illnesses, such as diarrhoea, minor infections, headaches, sore throats, or travel health.
- Make an appointment with your GP if you're feeling unwell and it's not an emergency.
For information about conditions and treatments, read the Health A-Z guides.
UK General practitioners (GPs)
GPs are the first point of contact for nearly all NHS patients. They can direct you to other NHS services and are experts in family medicine, preventative care, health education, and treating people with multiple and long-term conditions.
If you're planning to live and work in England, you need to register with a GP practice. You'll need to fill out a GMS1 form using exactly the same details you used when you filled out your visa. It's up to the GP practice to decide whether to accept new patients or not, but they can only refuse for non-discriminatory reasons. Find a GP practice in your area.
Walk in Centres/Urgent Treatment Centres
These are generally used for urgent but not life-threatening treatment. They are GP run and can deal with anything from a cold to broken bones. You can find out more information on these centres here. On this link, you will find a list of ailments which can be dealt with at the centres. You can just walk in as no appointment is needed.
A GP referral is required for all non-emergency hospital treatment
Some services or treatments carried out in an NHS hospital are exempt from charges, so they're free to all. These include:
- A&E services – not including emergency treatment if admitted to hospital
- family planning services – this does not include abortions or infertility treatment
- treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence or sexual violence – this does not apply if you have come to England to seek this treatment
If you are an Australian or New Zealand national visiting the UK without a visa, some of your costs will be automatically covered by the UK/Australian or the UK/New Zealand reciprocal healthcare agreements. This is in place for all Australian/New Zealand visitors. You will need to show your passport and medicare card. This shouldn’t stop you from having travel insurance.
If you are not an Australian or New Zealand national and you go to a GP for treatment whilst visiting the UK and is treated as a private patient then any prescription would also be private and would have to be paid for privately. Please check your local government travel website to see if your country has a similar reciprocal agreement.
If a GP accepts a person as an NHS patient (either full or temporary) and gives the patient an NHS prescription (FP10) then normal charging rules apply.
There can be no charge made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis or treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19). All overseas visitors, including anyone living in the UK without permission, should be aware that:
- No charges apply to testing for COVID-19, even if the result is negative, or to any treatment provided for COVID-19 if the result is positive or up to the point that it is negatively diagnosed. The same is true of most other infectious diseases.
- NHS trusts have been advised that no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be only undergoing testing or treatment for COVID-19
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