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How to use the National Health Service in the UK

The UK government provides free or low-cost basic medical services to UK residents through the National Health Service (NHS). In order to use this service, you need to register with a local doctor in your area before you have a consultation.

Get access to world-class medical care

We recommend that you register with a GP in your area as soon as you have a permanent address in the UK. This will allow you access to healthcare as and when you need it.

The NHS in England deals with over one million patients every 36 hours, covering everything from antenatal screenings to transplants and emergency treatment. This means that while their service is free or low-cost, there can be quite a wait involved.

If you aren’t able to take the time off work, private medical centres, such as Medicentre, are situated across London and make for an efficient and convenient alternative.

Please note: You will have to pay for all treatments and consultations at these centres.

What you have to pay to make use of the NHS

The immigration health surcharge applies to all visas valid for longer than six months. All applicants will be required to pay the fee at one of the following rates:

  • £150 per year as a student or Tier 5 visa holder, e.g. £300 for a two-year visa
  • £200 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, e.g. £1,000 for a five-year visa

This surcharge allows you to make use of the services offered by the NHS.

Dental care

The NHS also contributes to personal dental care. To use this service, register with your local NHS dentist. You will have to pay 75% of the cost of your treatment. You will also find private dental practices throughout London and the UK, but they are substantially more expensive.

Eye care

You can find an optometrists on almost every high street, so it is worth visiting a few and comparing prices. If you wear contact lenses, we recommend bringing a few from home as these can be particularly expensive in the UK.

Disabled access

All black cabs and buses have wheelchair access and most tourist attractions have facilities for a number of disabilities. For more information on disabled access, you can visit:


Start getting prepared for your UK move


Essential resources for life in the UK

South Africa

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Regent Square
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25 Richefond Circle
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United Kingdom


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