The National Health Service in the UK is a publicly-funded medical service. It started in 1948 out of the idea that good healthcare should be available to everyone and not just those who could afford it. It is free at the point of use for all UK residents, although some prescriptions and other services, such as dental and eye health checks, may be subject to payment. If you are moving to the UK, it is essential to know what you are entitled to access and what you may need to pay for.
You can access care from a GP surgery (General Practitioner) from a doctor or nurse free at the point of use. There is also the option of accessing walk-in clinics, family planning services and emergency services if needed. You can ring 111 if you have any medical concerns (not life-threatening) and just wish to get some guidance. The 111 non-emergency service is available in England only at the moment. You can also speak to pharmacists for advice. Prescriptions in England currently cost £8.60 per item. If there are a few prescriptions needed, a pre-payment certificate can be bought for three months at £29.10 or 12 months at £104.00.
In Wales and Scotland, prescriptions are free. They have also made wigs and appliances needed for medical reasons free of charge. The costs for such things in England vary, but there is help available for those who cannot afford them.
In a medical emergency, ring 999 for an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital. The medical coverage provided by the NHS is paid for by taxation.
Reciprocal Health Care Agreement
Australians in the UK have slightly different rules due to health care agreements. Thanks to a reciprocal health care deal, Australians can get free healthcare through the NHS for up to six months. Healthcare received must be medically necessary and something that cannot wait for six months. You will receive the same care as a resident including access to a GP surgery, walk-in clinic, emergency care at a hospital, ambulance services, outpatient care and prescriptions (with a small fee of for those in England as previously mentioned). You must register with a GP to be seen by one. You will need to do this to be eligible for the healthcare and prescriptions. You will need to pay for any dental services, but private health care may help with the costs involved. Australians in the UK must prove they are eligible for the reciprocal health care with their Australian passport and Medicare card. Bring these with you to the GP surgery or hospital. If your Medicare card will go out of date whilst you are in the UK, then you should renew it before leaving Australia.
Private Travel Health Care Options
While the NHS is a wonderful thing made available to UK residents, waiting times can be long and sometimes people prefer a more personalised care. This can be done with private healthcare insurance. Allianz and April International are just two companies that can offer private health care options for short and long-term stays for individuals or families.
NHS Health Care Surcharge
If you are teaching in the UK for more than six months, then you will need to include an immigration health surcharge in addition to visa fees. This is £200 per year and is paid in advance. For example, if you have a five-year visa, you will pay £500 in immigration health surcharge fees on top of the visa fees. This is a must and cannot be substituted with private health insurance. You will then have regular access to the NHS.
Seeking medical care in the UK does not need to be frightening. It is very accessible, as long as you know what you are entitled to and what you are responsible for. If there are any doubts or you wish to discuss things in further, Point to Point Education are here to help while you are working overseas.