Accessing NHS care when moving to the UK

NHS entitlements to primary care in England

Anyone in England can register with a General Practitioner (GP), see a primary care doctor or nurse or receive primary care services free of charge, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status. It is not a requirement to provide proof of address or identity to register at a GP practice. But it is helpful to do so, and you may be asked for documentation if possible. There is also no requirement to provide proof of immigration.  

If homeless, you can provide a temporary address; you can use a friend’s or GP practice address.

A GP practice cannot refuse to register you for discriminatory reasons on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. You may be refused if you live outside the catchment area or have been removed from the GP registration before. If a GP refuses to register you, they must notify you in writing of the refusal and the reason for it within 14 days of the decision. 

General practitioner (GP) 

A General Practitioner (GP) is your family doctor and is the main point of contact for general healthcare for NHS patients. All UK residents are entitled to the services of an NHS GP. You need to register with a GP as soon as you can when you arrive in the UK so you can see the GP when you are sick.  

Do I need documents to register with a GP?  
You do not have to provide ID when registering with a GP, but it is helpful.  

It would be helpful if you could provide at least one of the documents below when registering with your GP:  

  • ARC card 
  • Biometric residence permit 
  • Birth certificate 
  • HC2 certificate 
  • Passport 
  • Travel document 
  • Utility bill 

There is no charge to register with a GP; once you are registered, there is also no charge to see your GP. If your GP decides that you need medicine, you will receive a prescription, which you will need to take to any pharmacy. 

Registering for a GP in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

To see a GP in a practice, you need to register as a Health Service patient with the GP surgery.

Registering with a GP practice in Scotland

Registering with a GP practice in Wales

Registering with a GP practice in Northern Ireland

Paying for prescriptions

In England, you must pay a prescription charge of £9.65 per item. There are certain exceptions to the standard fee charged for NHS prescriptions. If you fall into one of the following categories, you may qualify for free prescriptions:

  • People aged under 16 or over 60
  • People who are pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months (with a maternity exemption certificate)
  • People on certain income-related benefits
  • People with specific medical conditions (with a medical exemption certificate)

You can find the full list of medical conditions that qualify for a medical exemption certificate on the NHSBSA website

If you are unsure whether you qualify for a free prescription, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Prescriptions are free in Scotland and Wales but not in Ireland.

  • Scotland and Wales: Prescriptions in these countries are completely free of charge.
  • Ireland: Ireland has a separate healthcare system from the UK and prescriptions are not free. There are charges associated with them, but there are also exemptions available for certain groups of people.

The NHS prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is a scheme in England that can help you save money on your medications. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  • What it is: With a PPC, you pay a fixed cost upfront for a set period, covering all your NHS prescriptions during that time.
  • Cost: There are three options:
    • 3 months: £31.25
    • 12 months: £111.60 (or ten monthly instalments of £11.16)
    • HRT PPC (Hormone Replacement Therapy): £19.30 (valid for one year)
  • Savings: A standard prescription in England costs £9.65 per item. You’ll benefit from a PPC if you typically need:
    • More than 3 prescribed items in 3 months (standard PPC)
    • More than 11 prescribed items in 12 months (standard PPC)
    • More than 2 HRT prescriptions in a year (HRT PPC)

NHS entitlements to secondary care in England

Hospital treatment is free to people who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK. To be considered ordinarily resident and entitled to free hospital treatment, you must be living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. You may be asked to prove this. 

People who are not ordinarily residents are charged for using secondary care services. However, some migrant groups are exempt from ALL NHS charges, including:

  • Non-UK nationals who have temporary leave to remain
  • Reguees and their dependants
  • Asylum seekers and their dependants
  • Some refused asylum seekers
  • Children looked after by local authority
  • Victims or suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking

NHS hospitals have a duty to identify and charge overseas patients for hospital treatment they receive. Hospitals are required to check documentary evidence of entitlement to prove that you are ordinarily resident in the UK. 

To establish your eligibility, the hospital may ask you questions about your residential status when you register for a clinical appointment. All patients admitted to UK hospitals must provide the correct information when registering their details, whatever their nationality and residence status. If you live lawfully with a settled purpose in the UK or are a visitor to the UK, you should provide evidence. 

You must bring at least one valid document from each of the lists below to your first hospital appointment: 

Proof of identity 

  • Citizen card 
  • Current signed passport 
  • EU or Swiss national identity photo-card 
  • Photographic disabled blue badge 
  • Residence permit issued by the Home Office   
  • Valid armed or police forces photographic identity card 
  • Valid UK photo-card driving licence 

Please note it is best to bring proof of your right to reside in the UK (for example, a UK or EEA passport, EEA national ID photo card, Visa or residence permit issued by the Home Office, Biometric Residence Card or Permit, Asylum Registration Card or valid UK armed or police forces photo ID). This will help determine your eligibility quicker and avoid delays in your treatment. 

Proof of address 

  • Bank, building society or credit union statement or passbook 
  • Council tax bill (valid for the current year) 
  • Current council/housing association rent book or tenancy agreement 
  • Notification letter from Department for Work and Pensions or HM Revenue and Customs confirming your right to benefit or state pension 
  • A recent original mortgage statement from a recognised lender 
  • Recent original utility bill (gas, electric, water, telephone) (mobile not acceptable) 

If you cannot provide the documents, you may have to pay a deposit equal to your treatment’s estimated cost before you receive an appointment or treatment. 

What services are free to everyone?

Some services are free to everyone, even if those who are not ordinarily residents including:

  • Accident and Emergency services
  • Services provided for the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of suspected infectious diseases like COVID-19, HIV and TB, sexually transmitted infections, family planning services, excluding abortions and fertility treatment.
  • Services for treatment of physical and mental health conditions caused by torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence or sexual violence.

Dental Treatment

Charges for NHS dental treatment occur for everyone living in England. This means that dental charges will apply unless the treatment is free to remove stitches, stop bleeding in the mouth or denture repair. However, some people may be entitled to free treatment or help with costs. NHS dental care is free for everyone:-

  • under the age of 18 or 19 if in full-time education
  • people receiving certain benefits
  • women who are pregnant or had a baby in the last 12 months

If you are on a low income or have no access to public funds, and are not receiving or qualify for benefits, you can apply for help with full costs or partial costs of NHS dental care through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

What is an NHS number? 

An NHS number is a unique 10-digit number assigned to everyone registered with the National Health Service (NHS) in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man. It helps healthcare staff identify you correctly and link you to your medical records.

If you have an NHS number, it does not mean you’re automatically entitled to the free use of all NHS services. 

Patients in England are required to contribute to the cost of their NHS care, such as paying prescription costs, eye or dental charges and you will be required to make the same contributions. 

On arrival in the UK

To access health care in the UK, you must register with a General Practitioner (GP) as soon as you arrive. This will enable your GP to process your registration and provide you with an NHS number. You must have an NHS number to obtain hospital treatment (non-emergency) and be referred to a bleeding disorder specialist for ongoing care and prescribed treatment.

A hospital appointment can only be given following a referral letter from your GP. The letter will give the bleeding disorder specialist essential background information, such as your medical history. It will also contain details that the specialist needs to pay particular attention to.

If you have prescribed treatment/medication, you MUST bring this with you. A referral to a local haemophilia centre can take weeks.

Disclaimer:  The content of this page has been provided by GOV.UK and NHS.UK and is for general information only. It is subject to change without notice.