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Get to know the NHS
In the UK, our healthcare services are run at a national level, and called the National Health Service, usually known by its abbreviation – NHS.
The NHS is publicly funded and free at the point of use – this means you don’t need to pay to go to the hospital or see a doctor. If you need medication from a doctor, you’ll need to obtain a prescription from a GP (General Practitioner), which you may need to pay for. These are charged for at a set price; you can find out more about prescriptions costs and who is eligible for free prescriptions.
If you’re living in the UK for the first time, or this is the first time you’ve needed to access healthcare services away from home as an adult, you may find it helpful to get to grips with the NHS and what it offers. This may especially be the case if you’re from overseas – the NHS may be quite a different healthcare system to what you’re familiar with in your home country.
Useful resources for accessing healthcare as a student:
- NHS: Getting medical care as a student
- UKCISA: Health and healthcare aimed at international students
Register with NHS services
When you arrive in London, we recommend registering with GP surgery which is near your term-time address, or at the KCL Health Centre.
A ‘GP’ is a General Practitioner, which is the type of doctor you will see in a community medical centre, which are often called GP ‘practice’ or ‘surgery’. This should be your first stop for advice and support for any medical concerns you may have which are not emergencies.
A pharmacy, sometimes also called a ‘chemist’, is a store which provides medicines prescribed by doctors. A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who dispenses medicines.
As qualified healthcare professionals, they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.
Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You don’t need an appointment, and
most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard.
Find out more about pharmacies by visiting How your pharmacy can help.
Learning to live well
For more information, guidance and the top health tips visit NHS Live Well, which also includes guidance on mental wellbeing, how to quit smoking and sexual health.