Before arrival, all students should follow the advice on prevention of communicable diseases and familiarise themselves with the UK National Health Service (NHS).
General Practitioners (GPs)
You should register with a GP as soon as possible after your arrival in Cambridge, ideally on your first day, even if you do not expect to need medical support or treatment during your time here.
Pick one from those available in the area by entering your Cambridge post code into the NHS Choices web page. You can visit your chosen practice to register or some practices are able to register you on-line.
Please allow only one health issue per GP appointment, as each consultation with a GP is limited to 10 minutes.
Long-term health conditions
Bring any documentary evidence from your doctor (in English) as confirmation of any existing long term health conditions.
If you have any long term health concerns, you should ask your GP for an appointment to discuss your needs. The GP will give you all the relevant health information you need.
If you are receiving medical treatment or taking medication, bring with you a doctor's certificate (in English) confirming the treatment and any medication you are receiving.
If you need ongoing medication in the UK, the GP reception will explain how they arrange repeat prescriptions for when you are anticipating your first supply of medication to run out. It can take up to 48 hours to obtain a repeat prescription. Some practices have an arrangement with a local chemist so that you can pick up the items from the chemist, without taking the prescription from the practice to the chemist yourself.
GPs reserve the right not to prescribe certain medication and not all medication from outside the UK is available on the NHS. Your GP may be unable to prescribe the medication you are taking, because it is not used here or because of NHS prescribing restrictions. If you have specialised medication or you are in any doubt, you are advised to bring a supply with you.
Private medical insurance
All overseas students are advised to take out private health insurance before coming to the UK to cover the following potential health-related costs:
- Loss of fees, if you are unable to complete your course.
- Additional treatment and medical expenses not covered by the National Health Service.
- Costs of returning home, if a relative is taken ill.
- Costs of a relative visiting you in the UK, if you fall ill.
- Returning to your home country for treatment.
Emergency NHS treatment
UK NHS care and treatment can be given universally in an emergency.
In the UK, it is important only to use the Accident and Emergency department (A&E/ER/Casualty) of a hospital for the treatment of true life-threatening or limb-threatening conditions.
All other illnesses and injuries are dealt with by GPs or the NHS 111 service by telephoning 111. If attending hospital, you will need to take your passport, visa and College letter of acceptance with you.
You are entitled to free NHS care and treatment whilst in the UK if your course is both full time and lasts 6 months or more.
If this is the case, entitlement also applies to your family members (spouse/civil partner and your children). To be entitled, family members are required both to live with you for the duration of your course, although settling in time is permitted before you send for them, and to have the correct UK visas. You are also entitled to specialist care from the NHS, as long as it is for the treatment of a condition that is not pre-existing, ie. not a condition that existed before your entry to the UK.
NHS costs and charges
NHS care and treatment are not entirely free, although children under 16 years old, or under 19 years old and in full-time education, are exempt from the following treatment charges:
- Dental care: Heavily subsidised and all dentists have to agree a price with you before beginning treatment. A checkup is around £18.
- Eye care: Subsidised too, but not as much as dentistry.
- NHS prescription charges: Currently set just at £8.40 for each item printed on the prescription, for example, any quantity of the same medication. This charge is paid to the Pharmacist when you go to the Chemist to collect your medication.
Specialist NHS treatment
Once registered with a GP at one of the local GP Practices / Surgeries, specialist NHS care is then arranged by your GP. If attending hospital, you will need to take your passport, visa and College letter of acceptance with you.
The British Council has useful Health Advice for International Students.
The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also has more information.
UK dentists keep lists of regular patients to enable them to provide ongoing treatment and care, both under the NHS and privately.
The College recommends that all students continue their dental care with a Cambridge dentist, either at the University Dental Service or elsewhere. This avoids time taken obtaining treatment away from Cambridge and reduces the likelihood of emergency dental work being required.
University Dental Service, 3 Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1QA, telephone: 01223 332 860
To find alternative local dentists use NHS Choices.