General Healthcare Info for Expats in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has a socialized health care system and a private healthcare system. The socialized system is called the National Health Service (official site), or more commonly "the NHS."
Private Hospitals in London & Private Doctors in London
The NHS is one of the most well-known examples of socialized health care services in the world. Its adherents hold it up as one of the best and most accessible systems ever created, while its detractors decry long wait times and an uncertain financial future given an aging population and continuing rise in the cost of healthcare.
In order to gain access to the NHS system, you must establish legal and permanent residency - officially known in the UK as settlement or indefinite leave to remain and pay an immigration health surcharge (IHS).
Historically, expats that enter the U.K. have considered getting private health insurance a must. That shouldn't be viewed as an indictment of the system, but rather what expats have come to expect. Employers do not have to provide private insurance to their employees in the U.K., so it is viewed as a perk that expats want and employers will use to create a package that's attractive.
For expats that are concerned about wait times and who want access to quality care in a private setting can still choose to purchase international health insurance.
Health Surcharge for Expats on Visa Application
Expats often wo
Pay for UK Healthcare as Part of Your Immigration Application
According to the NHS site, You'll have to pay:
- 300 pounds per year for a student or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa, for example 600 pounds for a 2-year visa
- 400 pounds per year for all other visa and immigration applications, for example 2,000 pounds for a 5-year visa
- Dependants usually need to pay the same amount as you.
You can pay for your U.K. Healthcare Surcharge online.
Medical Emergencies in the U.K.
In the event of an emergency in the U.K., dial 999 or 112.
The abbreviation A&E in the U.K. stands for "Accidents and Emergency Department", which is analogous to the E.R. (Emergency Room) in the United States.
Expats will have free access to emergency services in the U.K.
NHS Wait Times for Non-Emergent Procedures
On the NHS official website, you can read its Guide to NHS Waiting Times in England.
"The maximum waiting time for non-urgent consultant-led treatments is 18 weeks from the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service, or when the hospital or service receives your referral letter."
"The maximum waiting time for suspected cancer is two weeks from the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service, or when the hospital or service receives your referral letter."
However, an article in the Independent.co.uk reported that NHS emergency hospital waiting times hit worst level since NHS records began.
It reads that: "Despite pressures from flu and bad weather so far this winter being significantly lower than in 2018, performance against the flagship four hour target in January hit its lowest level since its introduction in 2004."
Similarly, in an article in the Telegraph, Alarm raised over tripling in cancelled NHS appointments:
"Nine million patients a year are seeing crucial hospital appointments and operations cancelled by administrators - almost triple the number a decade ago, official statistics show."
Given these realities, it's not surprising that so many expats want private insurance.
Medicines in the U.K.
Access to medicines in the United Kingdom is excellent. There is an abundance of pharmacies where they can be accessed, many as over-the-counter medicines, while others will necessitate a prescription from your doctor.