How the healthcare system works in the UK How the healthcare system works in the UK

The NHS in the UK

In the UK you will use the NHS (National Healthcare Service) for medical treatment. Even if you have paid the Immigration Healtcare Surcharge (IHS), you will still need to pay for some services such as prescription medications, dental treatment, eye exams, and possible preconditions you have. To access the NHS you need to register with a General Practitioner (GP) doctor. GPs are general doctors who have specialised in family health.

When you need medical treatment, your first point of contact is with your GP doctor. Most illnesses and other problems can be treated by the GP, however the GP will refer you to an appropriate hospital department or specialist if needed. At the UMS and most other GP's Surgeries and Health Centres, they provide a range of community health services for example vaccinations, women's health clinics, services for parents of young children, family planning, contraception and sexual health.

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

A&E is for immediate medical help. You can take yourself to the hospital or you can call 999 for an ambulance, which will take you if required. A&E is not for out-of-hours care.

Registering with a GP at the UMS

You must register at the University Medical Service (UMS) if you are living in UEA Accommodation. If you are living off-campus you can register at the UMS or with another GP near where you are living. University Medical Services 

Find information about the University Medical Centre and how to register on their website and look under ‘New Patients’ then ‘International’.

Registration is free. It is important to register after you arrive at UEA, do not wait until you feel unwell.

You can only be registered with one GP / health centre at any time and you should receive a card / letter with your NHS number.

Further information on healthcare in the UK can also be found on the UKCISA Health and Healthcare webpage

The University Medical Service (UMS) The University Medical Service (UMS)

Doctors and Nurses at the UMS specialise in student health, early diagnosis and intervention, and health promotion. Both male and female doctors are available and you can request a specific gender of your GP. The University Medical Service is confidential and they will only discuss your health if you request them to do so, for example to the University if you are too ill to study.

The UMS can help with:

  • When you are unwell
  • With your mental health
  • TB screenings
  • Sexual health
  • Prescribe medication
  • Travel Health
  • Medical certificates and reports
  • Refer you to the hospital

TB Screening

  • Free at UMS
  • Required for all students and accompanying family, unless from Western Europe, UEA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
  • Screening is normally a questionnaire, and possibly skin test or x-ray
  • An appointment will be made when you register at UMS
  • TB screening is a requirement of the University 

UMS Contact Details   

01603 251600 appointments/reception

01603 251601 enquiries/secretaries

Levels of Treatment Levels of Treatment

  1. Treat yourself -
  2. Local pharmacy and pharmacist – Boots on campus at UMS
  3. GP Doctor and Nurses at the UMS
    1. 10 minute appointments with a doctor or a nurse
    2. Urgent Doctor – walk in and wait for urgent medical problems
    3. Nurse clinics
    4. Treatment Room Nurse
  4. Call 111 – out of hours and non-emergency phone service
  5. Walk-in centre - Rouen House, Rouen Rd, Norwich, NR1 1RB
  6. A&E
  7. For an emergency call 999

Coverage on the NHS and Medical Insurance Coverage on the NHS and Medical Insurance

Coverage on the NHS

Visa for 6 months and longer

All international students applying for a Tier 4 (General) Student for courses longer than 6 months are required to pay a healthcare charge, called ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ (IHS), as part of their visa application. Paying this charge will allow you to access the National Healthcare Service (NHS). For more information read our webpage on IHS.

Medical Insurance

Visas for Less Than 6 Months or Not Covered Under the IHS 

If you are coming to study to the UK for less than 6 months or you have not been covered under the IHS, you cannot access the NHS free of charge.You are also not able to opt into the IHS. You must buy private healthcare insurance that covers your stay in UK before travelling to the UK. This includes anyone on a Short-term Study visa.

INTO Pre-Sessional to UEA Students

If you are studying at INTO for less than 6 months and are continuing your studies at UEA, you will need to extend your private healthcare insurance to cover you from when it expires to after you are likely to receive your new visa. This is because you will not be entitled to free access to the NHS with your IHS payment until your visa is formally granted. It takes on average 3-4 months for applications submitted in September and October. Access to the NHS without insurance or IHS can be very expensive.

Information about a British Health Care Insurance can be found at the following webpage address:

Students from the EEA

If you are coming from an EEA country it is important that you get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you come to the UK. This will show you are eligible for free GP and hospital treatment. For more information visit the UKCISA Healthcare page or European Commission’s website

Dentist, Optometrist, Mental Health, Sexual Health Dentist, Optometrist, Mental Health, Sexual Health

Find a Dentist

It is recommended that you also register with dentist that is part of the NHS. You still need to pay for treatment on your teeth, but it will be less expensive if you use an NHS dentist. The University Medical Centre has a dental practice on the first floor. You can register with one of those dentists, or others in the city. You do not need to go to your GP first if you need to see the dentist.

Find an Optometrist

You will be able to find many optometrists in the city. All eye tests, glasses and contact lenses will have to be paid for. Costs will vary depending on where the eye test is carried out, what lenses are required and the frames selected.

Mental Health

To look after your mental health, health experts recommend that you regularly:

  • Talk to your family and friends
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Avoid too much alcohol

It's normal to feel down or stressed at times, but if these feelings don’t go away, or if you find it hard to cope with the normal stresses of life, it is important to seek help.

If you feel depressed, stressed, anxious or lonely for whatever reason, you can seek confidential help by:

  • Your GP doctor
  • Student Support Service

Sexual Health

Sexual health and family planning is available from the UMS as well as other services in the city. UMS Offer free confidential advice and information about:

  • Contraception (birth control) – all methods of contraception are free and available at the UMS
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) –  including Chlamydia and HIV
  • Sexual Health Screening – if concerned you have an STI or it is recommended that you and your partner get screened prior to having sex for the first time.
  • Heterosexual and gay sex
  • Pregnancy testing

The Integrated Contraception and Sexual Health clinic (iCash) is on Oak Street, Norwich is an alternative.

Attitudes to sex vary, especially from students from other countries. You may notice differences in behaviours and views towards sex and relationships. UEA supports students to follow their own beliefs and to make their own choices. However, the University does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment or unwanted pressure towards having sex. UEA also supports having a diverse campus including sexual orientation and gender. Termination of pregnancy (abortion) in the UK is not considered to be an acceptable form of contraception. The legal age for consensual sex in the UK is 16.


Using condoms every time you have sex can help reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infections and can prevent unplanned pregnancy. There are many different types of contraception, however, only condoms prevent STIs. Different methods of contraception include condoms, birth control pills, injections, diaphragms, and implants. These are free and available from the UMS, and you can get free condoms from the UMS, Student Union and other locations.

If you had unprotected sex or you think your contraception method might have failed, you can get emergency contraception by going to the UEA Medical Centre as soon as possible, calling 111, or visiting a pharmacy.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Having safe sex using condoms can prevent STIs. If you think you may have a STI, you can get a free confidential check-up at the University Medical Centre or the iCash clinic in the city. You can also find free testing kits in the UMS and Boots on campus.

Common STIs include: gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and HIV among others. Find more from the Terrence Higgins Trust website ‘What are STIs?’

Talking with your partner about contraception and STIs

Sex is not to be rushed into. It is important to be able to talk opening and honestly with your partner about using contraception and STIs. It is also recommended to for both you and your partner to get tested for STIs before having sex with each other if you have been sexually active before. Talking and getting tested before having sex is part of having a mature relationship.