Healthcare in the UK

National Health Service (NHS)

The NHS is the government-funded medical and health care service that everyone living in the UK can use without being asked to pay the full cost of the service. These services include:

  • Visiting a doctor or a nurse at a doctor’s surgery
  • Getting help and treatment at a hospital if you are sick or injured
  • Seeing a midwife if you are pregnant
  • Getting urgent help e.g. ambulance services

People often refer to these healthcare services as ‘free at the point of use (or delivery)’. This means that any UK resident can see a doctor without having to pay after the visit.

Most healthcare in the UK is ‘publicly funded’ meaning most of funding is collected through UK residents paying tax.

NHS Surcharge

Everyone applying for a UK visa both in the UK and from outside the UK are now required to pay an NHS surcharge before applying for their UK visa.

You don’t need to pay if you are applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or any British Citizenship type applications.

The current charge is £400 per year, per person and the amount typically increases every year. The discounted rate for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme is £300.

You can start using the National Health Service (NHS) when once you’ve paid the healthcare surcharge (unless you are exempt from paying it) and your visa or immigration application is granted.


You will need to register with your local surgery (Dr office) in the area where you live.  The most I have ever had to wait for an appointment was a week,  I do however live in a small town so that might not be the case in a larger area.


The prescription charge increased (April 2018) to £8.80 and children get their prescriptions free of charge.  This means that for the most part all you will ever pay for a prescription is £8.80.


When looking for a dentist you can either choose a private dentist or you can choose a NHS dentist.  Using a NHS dentist doesn’t mean the treatment will be free, but it will be greatly reduced compared to going private.

Not all dental practices will take on NHS patients so you may have to join a waiting list, look for a different dentist or see a private dentist.

If you do find a NHS dental practice, you will need to fill in a registration form which will add you to their database but, that doesn’t mean you have guaranteed access to a NHS dental appointment in the future.

Entitlement for free NHS Dental Care

You’ll be entitled to free NHS dental care if you are:

  • under 18 or under 19 and in full-time education (and yes this includes braces!)
  • pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges)
  • receiving low income benefits, or you’re under 20 and a dependant of someone receiving low income benefits

I have been to both a private dentist and a NHS dentist.  I found the costs of dental treatment with a private dentist to be comparable to what I paid in Canada.  My last checkup with the NHS dentist cost £18.50; and an appointment with a hygienist cost me £50.00.

Helpful Links

NHS Dental charges
Find a NHS Dentist