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The National Health Service

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The text is taken from a British Council booklet for overseas students called "How to Live in Britain". It is important to know how to register yourself under the NHS and to know what treatment is free and what is not free.

Medical treatment, except for statutory charges towards the cost of medicines, dental services and glasses, under the National Health Service is free for persons who are ordinarily resident in Britain.

As an overseas student residing in this country you may receive medical treatment under the National Health Service during your stay. (If you are here on a short-term basis this is generally limited to any necessary treatment for conditions occurring after your arrival in Britain but you may be permitted emergency treatment for conditions you were suffering from before arriving but only if treatment cannot await your return home.) As soon as you have found somewhere to live you should register with a doctor practicing under the National Health Service so that he can attend you if you get sick. If you need advice about registering ask the manager of the hostel, or your landlady, or the local National Health Service Family Practitioner Committee, whose address can be obtained from the local post office. If you live far away from your college it is better to register with the doctor near where you live. If your college has its own Student Health Service you could register at the college instead of it with a local doctor.

If the doctor you contact has room on his list and is willing to accept you he will give you a card to complete which he will then forward to the National Health Service Family Practitioner Committee. They will send you a medical card bearing your registration numberand the doctor's name and address. Keep this card in a safe place since you will be asked to produce it and give your registration number if you have treatment. Broadly speaking the system rests on individual registration with a family doctor, known as a general practitioner, or GP. Today most GP's operate within a group practice of three or four GPs. People may register with any GP they choose, as long as the GP is willing to register them. There are statutory charges payable towards the cost of prescriptions, dental services and glasses. You will, for example, if you are 21 years old or over have to pay a proportionate part of the cost of dental treatment up to a maximum charge of 10 pounds and, at present, the pharmacist will generally charge 20p for each item on the doctor's prescription for medicines and other necessary items. While vision testing is free, the charges for spectacles broadly cover their cost.

The National Health Service will provide you with advice and treatment for illnesses that occur or recur in aggravated form after your arrival in this country. If, as a student here on a short-term basis, you seek treatment for a condition (including pregnancy) which existed before your arrival, you will he regarded as a private patient and expected to pay all expenses. A bed in a hospital can cost over 100 pounds a week and you may have to pay specialist fees. It is important for you to find out from the doctor or hospital providing treatment whether they regard you as a private patient or are treating under the National Health Service. There is no way in which fees paid private patients can be refunded and if your situation is such that you may be treated under the National Health Service (as explained above) and you do not specifically want to be treated privately, you should make this clear before start. It will be inyour interest to have a complete medical check-up and X-ray before you leave hometo ensurethat you are in good health.

In Northern Ireland students at recognized places of study receive general medical and dental services under the National Health Service, but they usually have to pay hospital charges. In Northern Ireland also the families of married students are not eligible for health service benefits.

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