Visiting a doctor in the UK
As an expatriate in the UK, you have several options for consulting a doctor:
Register with a General Practitioner (GP)
The most common way to access primary care in the UK is to register with a local GP. You'll need to find a medical facility near where you live and register as a patient. You'll need to provide certain information and documents, such as your passport, proof of address, and information about your health insurance coverage where applicable. To find a GP near you, you can use the NHS Choices service.
The NHS GP is the patient's first point of contact with the healthcare system. You need to consult a GP before being referred to a specialist, be it a gynecologist, pediatrician or other specialty. The aim of this system is to control public healthcare expenditure and ensure the efficiency of the system by ensuring that patients only consult specialists when medically necessary.
On average, a consultation with a GP in the UK lasts around ten minutes. Doctors may ask patients to deal with only one medical problem per consultation. It’s therefore advisable to book a longer appointment in order to be able to discuss several medical problems at once.
Use private healthcare services
If you prefer to opt for private healthcare, you can consult a private doctor directly. You will then have to pay the medical expenses yourself or use private health insurance.
Access emergency services
In a medical emergency, you can go to a hospital's emergency department or dial 999 to call an ambulance.
For patients registered with the NHS, most consultations with a general practitioner (GP) are free. There may be a charge for additional services, such as issuing a medical certificate.
For patients not registered with the NHS, consultation fees may vary depending on the facility or doctor you consult. On average, the cost of a private consultation with a GP can range from £60 (€70 / $76) to £150 (€175 / $190). However, fees may be higher for specialist consultations or laboratory tests.
Being admitted to hospital in the UK
The UK healthcare system is divided into three categories:
- hospital care
- primary care
- public health
Generally, hospitalization in the UK is by medical referral. However, direct admission to hospital is possible in an emergency.
NHS hospitals provide a full range of medical services, including emergency, general medicine, surgery, specialist care, radiology, physiotherapy, psychiatry, and more. It's important to distinguish between public and private hospitals. Public hospitals have the infrastructure to handle emergencies but do not have the facilities for all types of treatment. Serious cases will require hospitalization in the more expensive private hospitals. Rural areas do not always have state-of-the-art facilities but are relatively well equipped.
In terms of cost, hospital care in the UK varies for foreign nationals. In emergencies, they can benefit from free healthcare. However, for non-emergency care, charges may apply, but these can be reimbursed if the patient has private health insurance. Medicines administered during hospitalization are also free of charge. However, there may be additional charges for certain treatments, such as drugs prescribed outside hospital, or dental or vision care.