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Living away from homeSettling inStudent Life

Understanding the NHS as an international student!

21 August 2023

Living in the UK as a student brings with it a whole lot of questions, curiosities and honestly, confusions. One of the systems, pertaining to UK, that I was extremely lost about was the NHS (National Health Service). A quick google session was needed to find out what the NHS was, when I was applying for my student visa and was asked to pay a fee for NHS. Well, then I knew that acronym NHS refers to the public healthcare system that runs in the UK. It is divided into three different branches, namely NHS England, NHS Wales, and NHS Scotland. As a student in Cardiff, we come under the NHS Wales branch.

My initial interaction with the NHS system was when I had to pay for it. This can be a costly surcharge fee and thus, please keep the amount ready when applying for your visa. This is often the last step before confirming your immigration application and it is currently 470 pounds for a year for a student and different rates are applicable for different visa types. If you are staying in the UK for less than 6 months, for example as an exchange student, then you do not need to pay the NHS fee. It is important to keep these in mind as well since you might need to change your visa type while you are in the UK in the long run.  Here is a link for the page with the fee calculator and the costs-

After you have moved to the UK, this fee will cover almost all your medical needs- from GP visits to prescriptions to hospital visits to mental health services. However, it is important to remember that NHS fees does not cover whole of extra services such as dentistry and optometry fees. These also have some provisions that are covered but it is important to consult your GP and ask them if some services are covered under the NHS or not. This can help you to avoid some hefty costs that you would have to pay if you decided to go to a private doctor. In a way, NHS helps you to pay less when requiring the help of dentists and optometrists as part of the scheme but you might still have to pay a small amount.

Once you have moved to Cardiff, you need to avail the NHS scheme by registering for your GP. This is an extremely crucial step because a GP (General Practitioner) is your first point of contact to all your health-related services. They need to be contacted in case you need consultation or have doubts about the facilities covered under your NHS fee. In a lot of GP surgeries, you can apply to register for your nearest GP online. However, some might ask you to drop off a form in person. So, I would recommend looking up your nearest GP surgery and registering as soon as possible. Please don’t forget that there can be long waiting lists for GPs that are located in a heavily student-populated area so if you think you can pick another surgery to get quicker access to facilities, it worth checking that out.

If you want to know more about the whole NHS system, please check out this website-