The health system in the UK

The British health system, how does it work?

The British health system is mostly government-funded and is managed by a single organization, the NHS ‘National Health Service’. Concerning the following list of primary care, it is completely free for any person which resides on English soil : general practice, sexual and reproductive health and emergencies.

In case you’re only visiting or have been established here for less than a year, please contact the French social security department and ask for your EUROPEAN HEALTH CARD. It is free and grants you access to the NHS without further worries or costs. The request application is done online by creating  an account at and is valid one year.


You need to see a doctor and you are in London for a short time

You can visit a WALK-IN CENTRE for a general medical consultation.

WARNING ! Since early 2014, it is important when coming to the UK, to do so with your own European health card. Indeed, while it was still possible to get treatment for free in the “walk-in centers” without being registered with a GP, centres now demand between £60 and £75 if the patient does not have a card.

You can consult a DOCTOR FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR at your convenience and at your expense but the rates charged often range from £80 upwards for a consultation.


You’re intending to live in London for several months or years

You must register with a GP practice (SURGERY) in your area by presenting yourself with an ID card and proof of your address.

The surgery will establish your medical records using a questionnaire often completed with an additional appointment with a nurse. Your file will be accessible by any NHS doctor you may be receiving care from (emergencies …).

You will be able to consult a general practitioner, have your gynecologist follow-up (smear) and your vaccines done for FREE. If a blood test is prescribed, it is also free. If you are prescribed medicines, you will have to pay a fee of about £ 8.

To see a specialist, you absolutely must be referred to (referral) by your GP.


You are in a situation of MEDICAL EMERGENCY

You can present yourself to the hospital ER “Accident & Emergencies = A & E” at any time. Do not forget your European Health Card.

For life-threatening emergencies, please call 999. Ambulance or a SAMU equivalent may be sent based on need.

If you need medical advice, please call 111.


You have had unprotected sex

You can check in a GUM Clinic (Genitourinary Medicine) or “Sexual Health Clinic” which are open to all, regardless of your origin or duration of your stay. You will have free access to HIV and hepatitis testing or emergency treatment in case of need; to emergency contraception; free condoms, testing and follow-up in case of sexual assault.


You have a momentary health problem and need medication

You should know that in England, a large number of drugs can be purchased from chemists (chemist, for example: Boots) and even in supermarkets (Sainsbury, Tesco) without any prescription. The expression used for such sales is “Over the Counter”.

You will find there everything you may need for colds, flu syndromes, nasopharyngitis, tracheitis and sinusitis, conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, constipation, simple abdominal pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastritis, allergies, fungal infections, burns and small wounds , pain and fever … Ask the chemist for advice.



To find the location of Surgeries, Walk-In Centres or “A & E”s closest to you, please visit the ‘NHS’ Website which is very informative and well done.

A search engine will give you the location of what you are looking for depending on your actual location.

Whatever the case, you can also contact the Dispensary for further information.