Health and well-being are of fundamental importance. When you come to live in the UK you will need to know how to get access to healthcare and whether you will have to pay for services. Visit the following sections to learn more about healthcare in the UK.
The National Health Service (NHS) was set up in 1948 and although it is regarded as one of the best health services in the world by the World Health Organisation, it is generally recognised that there need to be certain improvements in the system. To achieve this, changes have been made to the structure of the NHS to ensure that patients always come first. Some of the services which the NHS provides are as follows:
- Pharmacists can advise on minor medical conditions (such as skin allergies), some can offer repeat prescriptions, or prescribe medicine and some offer tests to monitor conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Advice from pharmacists is free but unless you are exempt you will have to pay a charge for prescriptions.
- Opticians carry out eye and sight examinations. Unless you are entitled to a free eye test (for example if you are under 18, have diabetes or glaucoma, or are claiming certain benefits), you will have to pay for these services.
- Dentists offer routine and specialist care for teeth and gums. Most dental practices take a mixture of NHS and private patients. Even if you are registered as an NHS patient, you will still have to pay some charges for dental treatment unless you are exempt from charges (for example if you are under 18, if you are pregnant or have had a baby in the past 12 months, or if you are claiming certain benefits).
- Doctors / General Practitioners (GPs) are local doctors who deal with the health of the local community. They normally work in ‘Doctor surgeries’ (GP practices), with other doctors, nurses, health visitors and midwives, and visits to the surgery are free to all UK residents. The GP practice is often the first point of entry for a patient, and if a GP cannot deal with your problem they will refer you to a specialist or to hospital. You need to register with a GP in order to receive care, and will be required to undergo a brief medical examination upon registration.
- NHS walk-in centres give quick and easy access to care for minor injuries and complaints, and are often open outside normal surgery hours. You don’t need to make an appointment or register to receive care at a walk-in centre, and treatment is free to all UK residents.
Ambulance Trusts. Ambulance services respond to emergencies and are responsible for providing first aid and transport to hospital.
These coordinate health care and social services care.
Accommodation in the UK is generally quite easy to find, although the costs vary widely depending on the region. The best option may be to try to get university accommodation sorted out for you before you arrive and then in the first few weeks of your stay you can look for something more suitable. It is advisable to have some form of accommodation arranged before you arrive, which you can then use as an address when opening a bank account (a hotel or boarding house will probably not qualify for this).
When you come to work in the UK you may not want (or be able to) live in university accommodation. Luckily there is lots of choice when it comes to private rental accommodation and finding a house or flat to rent is usually not a problem. If you will be staying for a long period, you may also decide that it makes financial sense to buy a house. Find out about these options below.
Finding accommodation to rent
There are plenty of online search engines for finding private rental accommodation in the UK. You could try the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), which allows you to search for property type and price within a particular area. If you do not want to rent through an agency, you could search the local papers for housing advertisements and rent directly from the owner. UK studentlife.com also has useful information about finding somewhere to live in the UK.
The costs of accommodation and related costs vary greatly throughout the UK and often depend on your type of accommodation. Below is a short summary of the sorts of expenses that you may incur. Note that if you live in university accommodation, a lot of these costs will be included in your rent, and sometimes even food is included as well, so make sure you know exactly what you are paying for.