UK healthcare

UK healthcare: Guide to NHS services

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You can access various services through the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Here is an overview of the main NHS services to get the treatment you need while living in the UK.

How to find an NHS service

To find doctors, dentists, opticians, chemists/pharmacies, NHS walk-in centres, hospitals and a range of other services in your area in England, visit the NHS Choices website or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

Find your local health services on NHS Choices.

Doctors/general practitioners (GP) in the UK

Your local doctor's (GP) surgery provides:

  • general medical advice and treatment;
  • prescriptions;
  • referral to a specialist or a hospital;
  • immunisations;
  • tests.

To register with a doctor's surgery, talk to the receptionist. They can tell you whether you live in the area the surgery covers and whether it has room for new patients.

If you're registering a new baby, you'll need to fill in the registration card you receive from the registrar when you register your baby's birth, and take it to your doctor's surgery.

NHS dentists

You don't need to wait until you have toothache to visit the dentist. In fact, a check-up every six months will help to prevent any major problems developing.

To find your nearest NHS dentist accepting new patients, visit the NHS Choices website or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

UK chemists and pharmacists

Pharmacists, or chemists as they are often called, are experts on medicines. They will prepare prescriptions for you as issued by your doctor.

You may need to pay for your medication or you may be eligible for free prescriptions – your doctor can tell you. Remember to take ID with you to the chemists if you are eligible for free prescriptions.

Pharmacists can also give advice on treatments that can be bought over the counter.

To find your nearest pharmacist, visit the NHS Choices website or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

NHS walk-in centres

These centres offer confidential advice and treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. Staffed by experienced nurses, they are open seven days a week, from early until late, and you don't need an appointment.

To find out where your nearest NHS walk-in centre is, visit the NHS Choices website or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

Accident and emergency / 999

If you are seriously ill and need emergency care, you can go straight to an accident and emergency (A&E) department at a hospital near you.

Alternatively, you can call 999 for an emergency ambulance.

Find your nearest accident and emergency department (A&E).

Health visitors and community nurses

Health visitors are specially trained nurses who provide advice and support in the community for people whose health may be vulnerable.

If you have a child under the age of five you will usually be assigned a health visitor when your baby is about 10 days old. If this doesn't happen, contact your GP surgery and they will let the local health visitor know.

If you or a member of your family need nursing care or support at home, a community nurse or health visitor could help. The people they work with could be ill or disabled or have physical or mental health problems.

Organisations and charities

Many people visit websites run by charities or voluntary organisations who are experts on a particular medical impairment or disability.

As well as detailed information about the causes and effects of conditions, these sites provide information about treatments, medication, equipment, alternative therapies (where appropriate), self-help and support groups.

They also often act as a way to share views with other people via message boards and forums. Many organisations produce newsletters or magazines that you can subscribe to. You can find more details in the useful contacts section.

Health and well-being contacts (useful contacts section).

Alternatively, you can explore private healthcare options from a number of different private health insurance providers.

Learn more about the healthcare system in other countries


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4 Comments To This Article

  • access2NHS posted:

    on 25th November 2013, 20:45:44 - Reply

    ... the NHS needs to be dismantled ... no longer fit for purpose ... starting with those parasitic entrepreneurial GP's who have no interest in "healing" anyone - rather more interested in collecting their "privately contracted" over-inflated cheques and supporting the drugs industry ... access to NHS has been privatized already via GP route.
  • Goldie posted:

    on 30th January 2013, 22:25:30 - Reply

    I think the NHS is good. You can get a lot of good quality services. The NHS are doing the best they can with a small budget. I have never had any trouble with NHS healthcare before, and the amount of good quality treatments by far outweigh the bad ones, only we never hear about those!
    There may be long waiting lists, but that is due to staffing issues due to a small budget.
  • Precious posted:

    on 5th March 2012, 04:16:27 - Reply

    It's so true, there's actually "No Health System = NHS " You rather go private than be on the waiting list for at least a year. Even when you manage to get treated, it's never done properly. There are so much to do with that "SYSTEM"
  • planetearth posted:

    on 8th October 2009, 12:53:59 - Reply

    You really should point out that many people in UK use private dentists not NHS ones (same is not true for medical GPs). What is available on the UK NHS for dentistry is rather basic thesedays and they tend to be very busy and often you will find yourself allocated to an Associate dentist who is recently qualified (probably often not UK trained) and who will move on after a short time (lack of continuity of care). Although unlike in Holland at least, there will be plenty of anaesthesia on offer even with NHS dentists so no worries there! Going to a private dentist in UK can actually be a relaxing pleasant experience! Can't say I have ever found that to be the case in Holland.