Health system in the UK

The British health system: how does it work ?

The health system in the UK is mostly public, run by a unique organisation, the National Health Service (NHS)

It is completely free for all residents in the UK for primary care: GP, sexual and reproductive health, emergencies.

Unprotected sex

You can consult a doctor in a GUM clinic (genitourinary medicine) or Sexual Health Clinic. They are open and free to all whatever your nationality and/or the length of your stay in the UK. You can have access to tests for STI, HIV, hepatitis as well as an emergency treatment if necessary; tests and follow-up in case of sexual abuse; emergency contraception; free condoms.

To find a Sexual Health Clinic near you, visit the NHS website

In case of emergency

You can go to the emergency department of the hospital at any time.

(Accident &Emergencies or A&E)

For vital emergencies call 999. An ambulance can be sent to you if necessary.

UK residency

If you plan to stay in the UK for a few months or years, do register with a GP surgery in your area. You will need proof of address and identity.

To open your file, you will usually be seen the first time by a nurse practitioner and your file will be accessible to all doctors within the NHS who look after you (specialists, emergencies, tests..)

All consultations and additional tests are free. There is a fixed price of £9.15 for each medicine prescribed. For those under 16 years old, people on benefits, pregnant women and over 60 years old, prescriptions are free.

In order to see a specialist you have to be referred by the GP.

Short stay in the UK

If you plan to stay in the UK for less than a year, do ask for your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you leave France. It is free and will give you free access to the NHS. You can obtain it by creating an account on

If you need to see a doctor, you can go to a walk-in centre for a general medical consultation.

It is important that you do bring your EHIC card with you or you might have to pay £60-£75 for the consultation.

You can also see a private doctor at your convenience; the fees are often over £100-£120.

Minor illness

In the UK a large amount of medicine can be bought without prescription, over the counter medicines (OTC), at the chemist or in supermarkets.

You can find everything you need to treat minor ailments like colds, flu symptoms, sinusitis, etc.

NHS 111 is a medical helpline; you can obtain information regarding NHS services near you as well as medical help and advice.

Medical Centre near you

To find a walk-in centre or surgery or A&E near you, visit the NHS website.

You can also call us for information.

Useful vocabulary

A&E – Accident and Emergencies : service des urgences
Blood test : analyse de sang
GP – General Practitioner : médecin généraliste
GUM clinic – Genitourinary Medicine Clinic – Sexual Health Clinic : santé sexuelle, planning familial
Health visitor : professionnel de santé qui s’occupe du suivi normal des enfants
Health clinic : équivalent de la PMI en France
Immunisation : vaccination
Laboratory : laboratoire

MRI scan : IRM
Nurse : infirmière
Nurse practitioner : infirmière prescriptrice
OTC – Over The Counter : médicaments vendus sans ordonnance
Pregnancy test : test de grossesse
Red book : carnet de santé
Referral : courrier du médecin généraliste pour adresser un patient à un spécialiste

Smear test : frottis cervico-vaginal (tous les 3 ans au Royaume-Uni)
STI – Sexually Transmitted Infection : infection sexuellement transmissible
Surgery : cabinet de médecine générale
Ultrasound scan : échographie
Urine dipstick : bandelette urinaire
Walk-in centre : cabinet médical sans rendez-vous
X-ray : radiographie