Seeing a Doctor in the UK

Seeing a Doctor in the UK

You’ve moved to the UK to live, the visa sticker is still fresh in your passport and you know the guide book back to front. The travel bug and lure of living abroad has firmly taken hold and the life of a traveller is born. But what if another sort of bug bites, one that requires you to see a doctor in the UK. Are you ready for that?

I’ll admit when I first arrived in London the last thing I was thinking about was finding a Doctor. I was more concerned with finding a job, a place to live and learning how the tube works. It wasn’t until I got sick that I realised I had no idea where to find the nearest doctor.

The health system here is run by the NHS (National Health Service) and works in much the same was as the system does back home in Australia with many services provided for free. Only they cover more of the costs meaning you’ll have extra travel money in your pocket even if you need to see a doctor. When it comes to alignment one can also opt for Invisalign.

To see a doctor in the UK you first need to register with them so no turning up at the door sick and expecting help like back home as you may not get it. The process is very simple and something I recommend people do as soon as they get settled. You never know when you will need one after all.

So whats the process then?

  • Find A doctor near you. The NHS have a great site for that
  • Attend the practice and register or look them up online and register that way if possible
  • Approximately 2-3 weeks later you’ll get a form in the mail. Keep it and don’t lose it, you’ll need it to attend your doctor

Now as for the costs, well to see a doctor it won’t cost you a penny. No consultation fee just walk in see the doctor and leave (don’t forget to make an appointment). My first time I was like what it’s all free oh and you don’t even need me to sign anything well that’s just perfect. Other services like the Dentist, Optometrist etc will have additional costs but still have some offset from the NHS.

Seeing A Doctor In The UK Pharmacy

Should you need a prescription the NHS have also put a cap on the price of most medicines as well, just £7.65. Not a bad price to pay to see a doctor and get medicine to fix you up huh?

We all hate going to the doctor but overall it’s a very simple process that can save you a lot of headaches later on down the road if you’re not feeling to well. If you’ve had other experiences with doctors in the UK as an expat leave a message in the comments, it may just help a fellow traveller out.

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48 Responses to Seeing a Doctor in the UK

  1. LEE CARTER May 21, 2012 at 9:51 PM #

    Registering with a GP makes things a lot easier, failing that you are better off going to a hospital rather than a doctors office, they will always see you, you may need to wait rather than book an appointment. If you go to a Doctors practice they will often only make an appointment for their registered patients if they are busy.

    Kelly was unwell while she was in England, we took her to the hospital and the only thing they asked her for was a postcode, her being Canadian did not seem to matter, they just asked if she was living in the UK.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 22, 2012 at 10:32 AM #

      Cheers for the info Lee it’s really helpful. I wasn’t sure on the hospitals but assumed they required you to be registered as well.

  2. ANDI OF MY BEAUTIFUL ADVENTURES May 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM #

    OMG to have free health care!!!

  3. AD-LIB TRAVELLER May 21, 2012 at 11:51 PM #

    Great post, as a UK resident I forget that visitors would need to follow this process. Great post to guide people and clear to follow 🙂

  4. DENISE May 22, 2012 at 1:03 AM #

    I’m still getting used to the Aussie system, but I’m glad there are some things which I can get for free!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 22, 2012 at 10:33 AM #

      Denise it’s not all free but having a medicare card in OZ sure is helpful 🙂

  5. JARRATT May 22, 2012 at 11:37 AM #

    Great post, very handy! Bookmarking this one for sure.

  6. GRAY June 2, 2012 at 2:22 AM #

    Why can’t US healthcare be like this??? This is great, practical information, Chris. Thanks for sharing.

  7. NOMADIC SAMUEL June 5, 2012 at 7:27 AM #

    I wish more health care systems around the world would model themselves more like this.

  8. PEG June 10, 2012 at 6:20 AM #

    Thanks so much for this! We’re moving to Scotland and I’ll need to sign up with the NHS when I get there. It was nice to read about the experience from a visitor instead of my Scottish husband who thinks it’s all just normal.

  9. ARIANWEN June 18, 2012 at 11:23 PM #

    I think we Brits have a good thing going with our health service, but a lot would disagree. I get a lot of my travel vaccinations, including malaria tablets, on the NHS. It saves a small fortune. Having said that, I’ve seen three nurses about my next trip and they all disagreed about which ones I needed…

  10. KATHERINE - KAPCHA THE WORLD June 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM #

    I miss the NHS – as much as everyone complained about them. At least it didn’t cost me at least $100 every time I go to the doctor like in New Zealand. Bring back the days of free doctors visits!

  11. HOTELOPIA UK July 9, 2012 at 3:09 PM #

    I’m a UK national and have been registered with several doctors here due to moving cities, I’ve never needed to keep the form they sent me in the post – you just phone up (or walk in) and tell them your name to book an appointment, they’ll have you on their books. My foreign boyfriend doesn’t need the form either. I think it’s probably just the odd surgery that works that way but yeah, for most people don’t worry if you lost the form as it’s hardly ever needed.

  12. WILL THOMS September 18, 2012 at 11:59 AM #

    People always knock the NHS, but I think it’s great 🙂

  13. AMANDA RODRIGUES November 12, 2012 at 8:41 AM #

    I’m really grateful for the NHS, I wouldn’t want to have to pay every time I need to see a doctor.

  14. ERIN January 8, 2014 at 11:52 PM #

    Hey guys,
    so I just arrived to London on youth mobility visa, I have a super bad flu. If I register at one doctor can I register again? At a different one when I move? And will it really take 2-3 weeks before I’m registered and can see a doctor?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 9, 2014 at 2:21 AM #

      Hi Erin, if you need to go to the doctor straight away you can just go straight to the hospital and be seen there. You don’t need to be registered then but could have to wait awhile.

      Going down the registration route, once registered I believe you need to take the registration form you get to your new doctor to swap over your registration over to them as it has details on it they need.

  15. HANNAH March 12, 2014 at 1:11 AM #

    Hi, I’m moving to London in a weeks time (!!!) on a Youth Mobility Visa. Just to clarify, if I don’t but travel insurance for the entire duration of my stay then I’ll still be covered by the NHS for routine check ups etc? To buy travel insurance for the 24 months in extremely expensive but I’m concerned about medical costs if I don’t and I happen to fall unexpectedly ill or break an arm or something!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD March 12, 2014 at 2:05 AM #

      Hi Hannah, you’ll be covered for everything you’d normally be covered for in Australia. So checkups and even hospital visits have some form of coverage. I saw a doctor a few times and went to the hospital for a scan and never paid a cent so you should be fine.

      • HANNAH March 12, 2014 at 2:16 AM #

        Wonderful! Thanks so much!

  16. HOLLY April 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM #

    Do I have to apply for an NHS card or can I just use my Medicare card? Can I apply as soon as I get the visa or wait until I get there?

    Thank you!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD April 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM #

      Hi Holly, you can only apply for the NHS once you are in the UK as thy send you out paperwork to fill in and no your medicare card won’t be valid there.

  17. SHARLA June 12, 2014 at 5:05 PM #

    i tried to register with my local doctor in east london but they refuse to give me the free NHS services and are trying make me sign up as a private patient which would cost 50pounds every doctors visit!! so annoying! they do not listen when i tell them about the recipricol health agreement, thankfully im moving soon!

    Ive been really ill and had to visit the hospital! which was free to see the doctor and do any scans etc. but if you have to be admitted into hospital you have to pay for your care!

  18. ROSALIND August 3, 2014 at 10:52 AM #

    You might be interested to know that NHS website was de-comissioned in March 2014 but I see you an still access the archives.

  19. JO January 2, 2015 at 7:50 PM #

    Should I purchase international travel insurance for my move to London or will the NHL cover all of my medical issues?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 3, 2015 at 4:10 PM #

      Hi Jo, you’ll need travel insurance for your trip to the UK but once there you will be covered by the NHS for medical problems in a similar way to medicare here. If you have anything more serious or that impacts on your life you may want to look at additional cover once in the UK to offset anything the NHS doesn’t cover. Outside of the UK you will still need travel insurance for any trips to make to mainland Europe.

  20. JAMES January 15, 2015 at 4:29 PM #

    Re travel insurance: If i’m going to fly directly to England to start living and working will i need to purchase insurance? – My Travel agent is telling me to do so for the entirety of my trip so he says i need travel insurance even when living and working in England. Is this right?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 18, 2015 at 4:04 PM #

      James you’d need insurance to cover you for the flight over should your bags get lost or the flight cancelled but you don’t need it for the whole 2 years there. You are covered in the UK for most things while living there and would only need additional insurance when you go exploring Europe which you can get as needed.

  21. MIRRA March 6, 2015 at 3:37 AM #

    Hi there,
    I’m at the uk in a youth mobility visa and I need to register for GP but they told me i must have a letter showing an address to where i live and i don’t have one yet … what should i do?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD March 6, 2015 at 6:49 PM #

      Hi Mirra, can you not get a letter from your landlord or whoever you are renting from? That seems to be the easiest option unless you work can provide a letter saying you live there. If you do need to see a doctor and still can’t get a letter just go to the emergency department at a hospital, they will see you regardless of if you are registered.

  22. ANTOINETTE June 26, 2015 at 5:04 PM #

    Hi there, I’m heading to the UK shortly on the youth mobility visa. I’m needing to have my wisdom teeth pulled out and Im unfortunately not going to have the time to get it done here whilst in Australia. What costs/fees will I be looking at in the UK? And how much will the NHS cover for dental? perhaps it may be best to have the dental work done in Central Europe, depending on the coverage.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD July 11, 2015 at 1:45 AM #

      Hi Antoinette, I’m not sure what the costs may be I’m afraid. Dental work is slightly outside of the standard doctors visit on the NHS so you may be up for similar costs to what you’d pay in Australia I’d imagine but really just guessing.

  23. GEMMA June 29, 2015 at 8:48 PM #

    I intend travelling on a tourist visa for 6 months or more and will need to see a doctor for my cancer level check-ups in the UK (or USA). I cannot be covered by travel insurance so I assume I will have to pay for a doctors visit. Can you give me any tips regarding a doctor/hospital visit on a tourist visa such as cost, appointments, hospital or GP or anything else.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD July 11, 2015 at 1:37 AM #

      Hi Gemma, I’m afraid I don’t have any advice here. Perhaps look into any agreements Australia has with the UK for reciprocal medical care. For the US take a big big bag of money with you as it’s likely to cost you thousand should you need a hospital stay due to their system.

  24. MELISSA July 19, 2015 at 11:52 PM #

    Hi Aussie Nomad

    I’m arriving in London on the 9th of August.. Tier 5 YMV.
    I will hopefully have a job just after I get there. I would like to travel in and out of the UK.
    I know now that i’m covered for medical whilst in the UK thanks to this amazing blog!
    I just wanted to know 1 thing.. If i’m travelling to other European countries and i’m applying for travel insurance.. do i apply as a UK resident even though i am on an Australian passport? i’m not 100% sure.. and do you recommend any insurance companies?

    Many Thanks in advance!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD August 5, 2015 at 12:40 AM #

      Hi Melissa, with travel insurance for Europe you won’t be covered as a UK resident for the first 6 months of your stay so you’ll need to apply for insurance to cover you. Unfortunately almost all companies won’t cover you once you’ve left Australia except for World Nomads so I’d use them till you’ve been abroad for 6 months.

  25. TROY August 26, 2015 at 8:05 PM #

    Hi All,
    I just want to point out that overseas patients can be seen by a qualified doctor (not specialist) if the surgery (doctor’s office) agrees – but they don’t have to agree.

    The rule says, you may be asked to pay if you do not have insurance –

    – Please see section – “People living outside the EEA” .

    However in reality, many surgeries will see an overseas patient for free and in some cases, hospital may not ask for money to treat someone, but there is no guarantee.

    Treatment for accidents and emergencies as an outpatient in a hospital’s accident and emergency department is free. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland emergency treatment in a walk-in centre is also free of charge.

    *** However, if you are referred to an outpatient clinic or admitted to hospital from an accident and emergency department, you may be charged (unless they forget or overlook).


  26. BEC September 30, 2015 at 4:13 PM #

    Hi there! I’m heading over to England later this year on the Tier 5 YMV, and planning on staying 12 months (maybe longer!). In terms of medical, do you think I should take insurance out for the whole 12 months, or will I be covered for most medical things under the NHS? Thanks!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD November 11, 2015 at 6:14 AM #

      Hi Bec, you’ll be covered under the NHS for medical so only need travel insurance for when you leave the UK.

  27. CATHERINE COLLOPY November 8, 2015 at 6:09 PM #

    Hi Aussie Nomad,

    My daughter has just arrive in UK on Tier 5 Mobility Visa but will have to pick up her documents within a few day (biometric etc). She is however very sick after contracting a virus. I told her to phone 111 and get help. They have organised for her to see a doctor but it’s on a Sunday. Will she be charged for the visit or would she use travel insurance?

    thank you

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD November 11, 2015 at 4:56 AM #

      Hi Catherine, I’d imagine your daughter would have been treated for free unless the doctor charged an extra fee for weekends. She can also visit the emergency department at a hospital to be treated as well.

  28. CHARLENE February 17, 2016 at 1:59 PM #

    From what I understand, you have to remember to renew/take your Medicare card with you to access the NHS.

  29. CAT MACKENZIE February 19, 2016 at 8:42 PM #

    I live in Scotland, and took my Aboriginal six year old to the Doctors today, he’s had a flu. The receptionists both stated that we will have to pay for any other visits from now on.

    And that’s apparently on the reciprocal agreement….careful folks.

  30. CHARLENE March 1, 2016 at 12:46 PM #

    Does anyone know how this: really affects Australians?

    Like, when do you pay the 200 pounds? Before you go or at the hospital/Doctor/Dentist/Optometrist?

    I’m confused.

  31. KAREN January 9, 2017 at 5:23 PM #

    Be aware that some practices will only let you make an appointment if you book at 8am on the day you want an appointment. You will then have to tell the receptionist what is wrong with you. She will get a dr to ring you back who will then determine if you will get an appointment to be seen in person. It’s a ridiculous system I live in zone 1. If you miss the dr call back you are back to square one. I’d rather pay to see a doctor and actually see one rather than be late to work trying to organise an appointment. My dr will not take appointments in advance. It’s incredibly frustrating. Make sure you register with a practice as soon as you can after arrival.

    • ALISON February 17, 2017 at 4:28 AM #

      I have this very same problem in Zone 2. It sounds really easy on this blog but its a nightmare getting an appointment. As an Aussie, I’m not really one to rock up to hospital for a minor complaint – that’s for proper sick people. And the walk-in centres in London are just as bad as the doctor’s. I’ve been sick twice now and twice I’ve been given the run-around.

      When registering with a practice, make sure to check their opening hours and how to make an appointment – this will save a lot of grief in the long run.



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