The United Kingdom (UK) is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Well-known for its beautiful country side, rich history (and bad weather), it’s also home to the largest state funded healthcare system in the world - the NHS (National Health System).
Apart from prescriptions, optical services and dental care, the NHS is free for all UK residents. If you’re not a UK resident however, accessing healthcare in the UK can be a bit more complicated –but don’t worry, this guide will explain how it all works.
Who can use the NHS?
If you’re living in the UK, any emergency treatment for life-threatening conditions will be free - whether you’re a resident or not. But to use the NHS for general healthcare and non- emergency treatment, you’ll need to be a UK citizen or be what’s known as ‘ordinarily resident’. This is explained in more detail on the NHS website but it generally means you legally live and work in the UK.
Private Healthcare in the UK
Though the NHS provides a good standard of care, 9 in 10 hospitals in the UK are overcrowded. So it’s not surprising waiting times can be long - around 3 weeks to be seen by your local doctor and if you’re referred to a hospital for non-urgent treatment, it can take around 18 weeks to get an appointment.
To avoid the long waiting times and have access to a range of private medical facilities in the UK, some expats choose to take out private health insurance. You can also pay to see a private doctor or specialist without using insurance – though this can be expensive.