International Student Support

Health and welfare

Find out if you are entitled to medical treatment through the National Health Service (NHS) during your studies in the UK, and how to access other medical services once you're here.

Who is entitled to NHS treatment?

The NHS is the UK's state-run health service. Some services are free and some you have to pay for.

The following NHS treatments are free for everyone:

  • some emergency treatment (but not follow-up treatment)
  • family planning services
  • treatment of certain communicable diseases
  • compulsory psychiatric treatment.

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals

All non-UK European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family should obtain a European Heath Insurance card (EHIC) before coming to the UK.

The EHIC card entitles the holder and their family to get the same medical treatment, which is free to residents of the country they are visiting, without being charged. It is important you obtain this card before you leave your country of residence. See the UK Council of International Student Affairs website for more information.

If your stay is to be permanent, or you are unable to get an EHIC card from your country of residence, you will need to obtain separate health insurance.

Non-EEA nationals

Many people who need immigration permission to come to or stay in the UK will be charged an additional sum as part of their immigration application.

If you have a visa issued before 6 April 2015 you do not need to pay the charge until you extend your visa.

This charge entitles Non-EEA nationals to the same free health services UK citizens receive on the NHS for the duration of their corresponding immigration leave.

Find out about UK government guidelines for paying for UK healthcare as part of an immigration application.

Early arrival in the UK

If you intend to arrive in the UK before the start of your course, you should take out short-term medical insurance to cover you.

Visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs' website for a useful guide and more information on health in the UK. 

What to do if you're not covered by the NHS

If you are not in one of the eligible categories described above (this includes students here under the short term study visa category) or your programme is under six months long, you and your family are only entitled to limited free NHS treatment.

You will have free emergency hospital treatment, but only the treatment given in a NHS Accident and Emergency department is free of charge.

Once you are admitted on to a ward or given an outpatient appointment, charges will apply.

GPs may agree to treat you for free, but this will usually be limited to urgent treatment that cannot be delayed until you return home. You will have to pay for any other treatment as a private patient.

Private healthcare

If you qualify for free treatment, you might want to take out comprehensive health insurance if you want a quicker service than the NHS can deliver.

If you think you won’t qualify for free NHS treatment, you need to take out private medical insurance to cover yourself. UK private medical treatment is very expensive. If you already have medical insurance in your home country, check whether you can extend it to cover your stay in the UK, as well as looking at options available from UK insurers.

Even if you are eligible for free NHS treatment, you must take out medical insurance if you will be travelling outside the UK during your time as a student here.

Registering with a doctor

If you're eligible, you should register with a doctor (often called a GP) as soon as possible after arriving in the UK.

Find out how to register with a doctor.

You will need to bring evidence of your BRP/visa/EHIC with you to all hospital appointments. Without this, you will have to pay for treatment regardless of any exemptions.

Going to the dentist

Dental treatment on the NHS is subsidised but not free. Dental surgery can be very expensive, particularly if you choose to go private, so we recommend asking about the cost before undergoing any treatment.

Find out how to register with a dentist.


You can find local eye care services through the NHS Choices website. Please be aware that it is also standard for optical treatment to incur charges, so you should request information about costs before undergoing treatment.

Pharmacy and prescriptions

Our campus pharmacy, next to the Health Centre, can dispense medicines on prescription. There is a standard charge for prescribed medications.

Other services

Find out about other services on our Student Hub page about healthcare.

If you are unsure of what type of health service you need, visit NHS Services Explained.


Find out more about vaccinations you might need.

Sussex health and wellbeing

Find out more information on staying well through our wellbeing pages.

International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422