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Expat Exchange - How to Enroll in the Public Healthcare System in England
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Wallington in Sutton, London


How to Enroll in the Public Healthcare System in England

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: A primer on how to enroll in the public healthcare system in England.

If you're planning to enroll in the public healthcare system in England, this article covers the requirements for foreigners to be able enroll in the public healthcare system, the steps involved and more.

The public healthcare system in England is known as the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is a comprehensive system that provides a wide range of health services, including doctor's appointments, hospital treatment, dental care, and even some optometry services. The quality of care provided by the NHS is generally high, and it is funded through general taxation, meaning that most services are free at the point of use for residents. It is not mandatory for all residents to use the NHS, but the vast majority do, as it is a cost-effective and accessible option for healthcare.

Eligibility for Foreigners

Foreigners are allowed to enroll in the NHS, but their eligibility for free healthcare services depends on their residency status. If you are a resident in the UK, you are considered ordinarily resident and are entitled to free NHS hospital treatment. To be considered a resident, you must be living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. You may also be asked to prove that you have been in the UK for at least six months, and that you plan to remain for at least six more.

However, some services are free to all, regardless of residency status. These include emergency treatment, family planning services, diagnosis and treatment of certain communicable diseases, and compulsory psychiatric treatment.

Steps to Enroll in the NHS

  1. Obtain a National Insurance Number: This is a unique number used to administer tax and is required to work and access social security benefits in the UK. You can apply for a National Insurance Number through the Department for Work and Pensions.
  2. Register with a General Practitioner (GP): Once you have your National Insurance Number, you can register with a GP in your local area. You will need to fill out a registration form and provide proof of identity and address. The GP practice will then send your registration details to the NHS.
  3. Receive your NHS Number: After registering with a GP, you will receive an NHS Number. This is a unique 10-digit number that records your personal details, medical history, and treatments in the NHS system.

It's important to note that even if you are not eligible for free NHS services, you can still use the NHS, but you may be charged for the services you receive. If you are not eligible for free NHS services, it is recommended to take out private health insurance to cover any potential costs.

While the NHS provides a high standard of care, some people choose to use private healthcare for certain services. This is often due to shorter waiting times and the ability to choose a specific doctor or specialist. However, private healthcare can be expensive, and it is not a necessity for most people.

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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB-Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model. Our clients benefit from their country’s most favorable tax environment by utilizing the efficient investment vehicles we offer. Our commitment to quality service is reflected in our stellar reviews, with over 300 testimonials boasting 95% five-star ratings.
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Click connect to have our partner contact you via e-mail and/or phone.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


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Wallington in Sutton, London

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