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Department of Health Skip to content

Please note that this website has a UK government access keys system.

Are you coming to the United Kingdom to pursue a course of study?

Rules, procedures and documentation on access to hospital and primary health care, NHS charges and exemptions.

What if I should need hospital treatment?

Under the current Regulations, anyone who comes to the UK to pursue a full-time course of study of not less than six months’ duration, or a course of study that is of any duration but is substantially funded by the UK Government, will be fully entitled to free NHS hospital treatment in England. This exemption will apply to your spouse, civil partner and children (under the age of 16, or 19 if in further education) if they are living permanently with you in the UK for the duration of your course.

Students from European Economic Area (EEA) countries or Switzerland

Students are encouraged to carry a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their home country, and will need to have this card to access free treatment if their course of study is part time or less than 6 months (and not substantially funded by the UK Government).  The EHIC entitles them to all medically necessary treatment during their stay free of charge. 

Students studying less than six months from non-EEA countries with which the UK holds bilateral healthcare agreements

Students studying in the UK for less than six months from countries with which the UK holds bilateral healthcare agreements will only be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment that is needed promptly for a condition that arose after their arrival in the UK. This exemption will apply to your spouse, civil partner and children (under the age of 16, or 19 if in further education) if they are living permanently with you in the UK for the duration of your course.

See the menu on the left for a list of bilateral agreement countries.

If you are here to study for less than six months on a course that is not substantially funded by the UK Government and are from a country with which the UK does not hold a bilateral healthcare agreement, then you will be chargeable for any treatment you receive, unless you meet the criteria for one of the other exemptions.


In common with those ordinarily resident in the UK, anyone who meets the criteria of ordinary residence or is exempt from charges will have to pay statutory NHS charges, eg prescription charges, unless they also qualify for exemption from these, and will have to go onto waiting lists for treatment where appropriate.

If I should need hospital treatment what documents will I need?

The Regulations place a responsibility on individual hospitals to determine whether, in accordance with the Regulations, a patient is liable to be charged for treatment or not.  In order to establish entitlement, hospitals can ask you to provide documentation that supports your claim that you intend to study in the UK.  It is for you to decide what to supply, however examples of evidence for this exemption could include:

if not an EEA national or from Switzerland then you should have a valid student visa or;

  • if EEA national or from Switzerland, proof of nationality – passport, EEA residence card; plus
  • proof from relevant educational organisation of attendance on a qualifying course of study, or that such a course of study has recently been completed or is about to commence.

Can I access Primary Care Services?

GPs have a measure of discretion in accepting applications to join their patient lists. It is advisable to approach a GP practice and apply to register onto its list of NHS patients. The practice may choose to accept or decline your application.  An application may be refused if the practice has reasonable grounds for doing so.  A practice would not be able to refuse your application on the grounds of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition.  If you have difficulty in registering with a GP, you should get in touch with your local primary care trust (PCT). 

Do I have to pay for emergency treatment if I have an accident?

Regardless of residential status or nationality, emergency treatment given at Primary Care Practices (a GP) or in Accident and Emergency departments or a Walk-in Centre providing services similar to those of a hospital Accident and Emergency department is free of charge. 

In the case of treatment given in an Accident and Emergency department or Walk-in Centre the exemption from charges will cease to apply once the patient is formally admitted as an in-patient (this will include emergency operations and admittance to High Dependency Units) or registered at an outpatient clinic.

Am I entitled to help with the costs of non-emergency NHS treatment?

Information about help with health costs is detailed in leaflet HC11 ‘ Are you entitled to help with health costs?’ which is available on the Internet at:

What if I do not meet one of these exemptions from charges?

If you are not ordinarily resident or exempt under the regulations, charges will apply for any hospital treatment you receive and cannot be waived. If this is the case you are strongly advised to take out private healthcare insurance that would cover you for the length of time you are in the UK.  There is no facility to purchase healthcare insurance from the NHS therefore any necessary insurance must be organised privately.


Please note the above information gives general guidance only and should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of law. In all cases the Regulations place the responsibility of deciding who is entitled to receive free hospital treatment with the hospital providing treatment.

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