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Entitlement to NHS Treatment

The NHS is the UK’s state health service which provides treatment for UK residents. Some services are free, other have to be paid for. The regulations that govern who can and can’t receive treatment are complex and may change.

Free Services

GP and nurse consultations in primary care, treatment provided by a GP and other primary care services are free of charge to all, whether registering as an NHS patient, or as a temporary patient, which is when the patient is in the area for more than 24 hours and less than 3 months.

For secondary care services, the UK’s healthcare system is a residence-based one, which means entitlement to free healthcare is based on living lawfully in the UK on a properly settled basis for the time being. The measure of residence that the UK uses to determine entitlement to free NHS healthcare is known as ‘ordinary residence’. This requires non-EEA nationals subject to immigration control to also have the immigration status of indefinite leave to remain. Individuals who are not ordinarily resident in the UK may be required to pay for their care when they are in England. However, some services and some individuals are exempt from payment.

The following NHStreatment is available to anyone:

  • Treatment in an emergency (but not follow up treatment)
  • Treatment of certain communicable diseases
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment

GPs are the first point of contact for nearly all NHS patients. 

  • They can direct you to other NHS services and are experts in family medicine, preventative care, health education, and treating people with multiple and long-term conditions
  • If you’re planning to live and work in England, you need to register with a local GP
  • But being registered with a GP practice does not in itself mean you’ll be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment
  • You’ll need to fill out a GMS1 form (PDF, 156kb) using exactly the same details you used when you filled out your visa
  • If you’re in England for a short visit but need to see a GP, you can register as a temporary patient with a local doctor – you need to be in the area for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months
  • Treatment will be free of charge, but make sure you present your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you have one

Medical emergencies

If you need immediate medical assistance (e.g. because of an accident) telephone 999. The call is free. An operator will ask you which emergency service you require (fire, police or ambulance). You will need to tell the emergency services what has happened and where you are. If someone is injured and needs to go to hospital an ambulance will arrive and take them to the nearest hospital with an emergency department.

If you need urgent treatment but are well enough to travel please make your own way to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

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