Disasters and mishaps never normally happen at a convenient time. When you need healthcare, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether you can get to see a doctor or not. If you are not a permanent resident, are a visitor to the UK or have recently arrived in an area, depending on the severity of your condition you can still access medical treatment from the NHS as well as from private healthcare providers.
The NHS is one of the UK’s proudest achievements in the last 70 years – you could almost say it’s our crowning glory. It stands for the National Health Service – the UK’s public health service that provides comprehensive, universal and free healthcare at the point of delivery for every ordinary resident in the UK. Yet, despite how proud every resident of the UK may be of our beloved NHS, it does have its drawbacks. Not every single treatment and service is covered even for UK residents, let alone visitors to the UK who may have to pay hefty charges for treatment.
Some treatments and services are free to everyone on the NHS including overseas visitors. Emergency treatment in any accident and emergency department (A&E), a minor injuries unit or walk-in centre is free to everybody. Minor Injuries Units (MIU) and walk-in centres are handy alternatives to going to A&E if you have non-emergency injuries and illnesses such as sprains, broken bones and infections.
Asking advice from a pharmacist is an option for minor conditions that don’t need a prescription or emergency treatment. You can also go to a sexual health or GUM clinic to access testing for sexually transmitted infections, as well as contraceptive advice. Finally, the NHS helpline can be a useful resource for non-emergency medical advice and information about local services – simply dial 111.
If you are admitted to hospital for treatments that are not free to all, a charge may be incurred if you are not a UK resident. All EEA (EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) nationals need to ensure that they present their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you have one or you may be charged for your care.
Visitors from non-EEA countries who are visiting the UK for less than 6 months will need to have personal medical insurance for the duration of your visit to cover any medical treatment you may need, even if you are a former UK resident. For treatment at a NHS hospital, you would be charged at 150% of the standard NHS rate, unless you have an exemption. Ouch.
Your health insurance would cover this cost, unless you haven’t got any medical insurance. In which case, you’ll be spending your holiday money on healthcare instead of souvenirs. If you are visiting England from a non-EEA country for more than 6 months, you will need to pay the immigration health surcharge (unless you are exempt from paying it). This will give you the same medical cover as someone who is ordinarily a resident in the UK.
For all non-emergency treatment, you should go to see a GP instead of going to the hospital, where you can access immediate care without the need for a registered address. But (there is always a but), if you need treatment for more than 14 days you will need to register with that GP surgery as a temporary or permanent patient. You can register as a temporary resident if you plan to live near the GP surgery for up to three months. After three months you will have to apply to register with that surgery as a permanent resident.
This includes UK residents not from the area, as you can register temporarily with a GP while away from home for work, study or holiday. You will still be registered with your permanent GP. Any details will be passed on to your normal GP from your temporary GP, which will be added to your medical records. If your application to become a temporary patient is refused, you can still receive emergency treatment for up to 14 days.
The NHS is a brilliant thing, the pride of Britain, but it runs on limited funds. The growing strain on its services can sometimes mean that it is not the best option in terms of the range and cost of treatments. Most of the treatment you will ever need is available for free on the NHS for the majority of individuals. But the long waiting times, to see both specialist doctors and GPs, and the lack of certain types of treatment or medication can mean that turning to the private sector may be a better option.
Private healthcare is a great alternative to the NHS, as it is both widely available and often has shorter waiting queues. There are private hospitals, treatment centres, and speciality clinics found throughout the UK. Because only around 10% of the population use private healthcare, there is a lower demand on its services so it is normally quicker to see private doctors. Private healthcare may also offer specialist treatments not available on the NHS.
Here at Qured, we’ve made accessing private healthcare even easier. By downloading our app and registering with us, you can have a doctor or physiotherapist at your home, work or even hotel in as little as two hours, with immediate referrals. Nobody wants to be without healthcare when they need it most.