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The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is an island state in northwestern Europe. It consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK also has several overseas territories, including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, as well as the British Indian Ocean Territories and the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

The climate in the United Kingdom is generally temperate but can vary considerably from region to region. As a rule, temperatures are mild, rainfall is frequent, and weather changes are common.
  • Population: 67.33 million in 2021
  • Area: 243,610 km2
  • Currency: pound sterling (GBP)
  • Official languages: English


Discover how the system works in the UK

The healthcare system in the United Kingdom is known as the National Health Service (NHS) and is considered to be one of the oldest and most comprehensive in the world. The NHS is a universal system based on where you live.

In the UK, the healthcare system is mainly devolved, meaning that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for making their own decisions about the organization of healthcare services. That is why, depending on your destination, you will be registered with one of the following four locally-run, tax-funded healthcare systems:
  • NHS England
  • NHS Northern Ireland
  • NHS Wales
  • NHS Scotland
The NHS provides healthcare at all levels, from general medical services to hospital treatment. The system is primarily based on free care, although patients are required to make a financial contribution for certain types of treatment, including when they consult NHS healthcare providers.

These treatments include:
  • Dental care
  • Vision care
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Prescription drugs
  • Transportation costs
  • Preventive care
  • Long-term care

If you are a foreign national and need healthcare in the UK, your coverage will depend on your personal situation:
  • If you are a national of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, you must ensure that the EHIC is valid for the entire duration of your stay. This card only gives you access to emergency services and does not cover treatment arranged in advance.
  •  If you are a non-EU/EEA national with a valid work or study visa, you may be entitled to free NHS healthcare for the duration of your visa.
  • If you are a non-EU/EEA national on a temporary visit or vacation in the UK, you may have to pay for the healthcare you need. However, some emergency treatments or treatments that are required immediately may be provided free of charge.

Healthcare formalities for expatriates

If you want to live in the UK, you must obtain a visa (particularly since Brexit).

There are 3 main types:
  • START-UP VISA: a program designed for international entrepreneurs who want to create and develop an innovative start-up in the UK. This visa allows entrepreneurs to live in the UK for two years, with the possibility of extending their stay for a further three years (Innovator Visa).

To obtain this type of visa, you must demonstrate that your start-up presents an innovative and original idea that has the potential to grow rapidly and become a successful business. Your idea must be unique and different from existing businesses on the market. You must also show you have sufficient funds to support yourself without requiring state funding.
  • STUDENT VISA: visa that allows international students to study in the UK. It replaces the former Tier 4 Student Visa and is designed to facilitate higher education and shorter study programs in the country.

To obtain this type of visa, you must have an offer of admission or confirmation of enrollment in an accredited educational establishment in the UK. This could be a university, college or graduate school.
  • For courses < university levelà valid for 2 years
  • For courses = university levelà valid for 5 years

Once you've graduated, you can extend your stay. You will need to apply for a Graduate Visa.
  • SKILLED WORKER VISA: work visa that allows skilled foreign workers to come and work in the UK.

To obtain this type of visa, you will need:

- A job offer from an approved sponsor: You must have a job offer from an approved UK employer who is willing to act as sponsor for your visa application. The employer must have obtained a sponsor's license from the UK Visas and Immigration Office.
- Certificate of Sponsorship: Your employer must provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This certificate contains information about your job, salary, length of contract and other important details.
It's important to note that the Skilled Worker Visa works on a points system, and you'll need to accumulate a certain number of points to be eligible. Points are awarded based on criteria such as job offer, skill level, salary and English language proficiency.

Once you have been granted a Skilled Worker Visa, you can work in the UK for the employer named on your sponsorship certificate. The visa is usually granted for a period of up to five years. You may also be accompanied by your spouse or partner who may be entitled to work full-time.

Other documents required for expatriates:

Since Brexit, expats in the UK must now meet a new obligation: the NHS surcharge. This charge, which varies depending on the type of visa, is added to the initial cost of the visa and allows the expatriate to benefit from NHS healthcare coverage.

However, it’s important to note that the NHS does not cover all medical expenses, such as prescriptions and dental care. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that you take out private international health insurance in the UK. This will cover medical expenses that are not funded by the NHS and give you better protection and peace of mind in case of a medical emergency.

Visiting a doctor in the UK

As an expatriate in the UK, you have several options for consulting a doctor:
  • Register with a General Practitioner (GP): The most common way to access primary care in the UK is to register with a local GP. You'll need to find a medical facility near where you live and register as a patient. You'll need to provide certain information and documents, such as your passport, proof of address, and information about your health insurance coverage where applicable. To find a GP near you, you can use the NHS Choices service.

The NHS GP is the patient's first point of contact with the healthcare system. You need to consult a GP before being referred to a specialist, be it a gynecologist, pediatrician or other specialty. The aim of this system is to control public healthcare expenditure and ensure the efficiency of the system by ensuring that patients only consult specialists when medically necessary.

On average, a consultation with a GP in the UK lasts around ten minutes. Doctors may ask patients to deal with only one medical problem per consultation. It’s therefore advisable to book a longer appointment in order to be able to discuss several medical problems at once.
  • Use private healthcare services: If you prefer to opt for private healthcare, you can consult a private doctor directly. You will then have to pay the medical expenses yourself or use private health insurance.
  • Access emergency services: In a medical emergency, you can go to a hospital's emergency department or dial 999 to call an ambulance.

For patients registered with the NHS, most consultations with a general practitioner (GP) are free. There may be a charge for additional services, such as issuing a medical certificate.

For patients not registered with the NHS, consultation fees may vary depending on the facility or doctor you consult. On average, the cost of a private consultation with a GP can range from £60 (€70 / $76) to £150 (€175 / $190). However, fees may be higher for specialist consultations or laboratory tests.


Being admitted to hospital in the UK

The UK healthcare system is divided into three categories:
  • hospital care
  • primary care
  • public health

Generally, hospitalization in the UK is by medical referral. However, direct admission to hospital is possible in an emergency.

NHS hospitals provide a full range of medical services, including emergency, general medicine, surgery, specialist care, radiology, physiotherapy, psychiatry, and more. It's important to distinguish between public and private hospitals. Public hospitals have the infrastructure to handle emergencies but do not have the facilities for all types of treatment. Serious cases will require hospitalization in the more expensive private hospitals. Rural areas do not always have state-of-the-art facilities but are relatively well equipped.

In terms of cost, hospital care in the UK varies for foreign nationals. In emergencies, they can benefit from free healthcare. However, for non-emergency care, charges may apply, but these can be reimbursed if the patient has private health insurance. Medicines administered during hospitalization are also free of charge. However, there may be additional charges for certain treatments, such as drugs prescribed outside hospital, or dental or vision care

Buying medication in the UK

Prescription medicines are available in the UK with a doctor's prescription. You won’t be asked to pay in advance but you will be required to pay a fixed charge of £9.35 (€10.94 / $11.89) per prescription. However, certain categories of people are exempt from this charge (notably the over-60s, children under 16, and pregnant women).


Vaccinations to be carried out

There are no compulsory vaccinations required for a stay in the UK. However, it’s important to be aware of the country's recommended vaccinations:
  • Routine vaccinations: Make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox.
  • Flu vaccine: It’s recommended to get a flu vaccine every year, especially if you are in a higher-risk group, such as the elderly, pregnant women, or people with certain medical conditions.
  • Vaccines specific to certain populations: Depending on your age, state of health or other factors, other vaccines may be recommended. For example, certain at-risk groups may be encouraged to be vaccinated against pneumonia, hepatitis B, meningitis, or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Health risks

There are no major health risks in the UK. However, it’s advisable to take care when it comes to diseases and viruses such as COVID-19 and seasonal flu, as well as air pollution in the major cities for people with respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

It’s important to note that health authorities in the UK monitor these health risks and take measures to prevent and manage them.

Good to know

Good to know

Emergency services and useful numbers:
  • Police: 999
  • Fire department: 999
  • Medical emergencies: 999

Official name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Main cities: London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool
Type of state: Unitary state and parliamentary monarchy
Capital: London
Languages spoken: English, Scottish Gaelic, Irish

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United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edimbourg, Glasgow, Liverpool




Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy


English (national), Welsh (official language in Wales), Scottish Gaelic (official language in Scotland), Scots (in Scotland), Cornish (in Cornwall) and Irish (in Northern Ireland)


UK on Wikipedia


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