Do I have to pay for medical treatment here in Cardiff?

If you have applied for a Tier 4 visa to come to the UK to study, you would have paid an immigration health surcharge as part of your application. The immigration health surcharge allows you to access the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK in the same way as a permanent resident. This includes hospital treatment for any new or pre-existing conditions and registering with a Doctor Surgery (otherwise known as a GP surgery). 

Prescriptions issued by the doctor are free of charge to everyone in Wales. However, you will be required to pay for eye tests and dental treatment as these are not covered by the NHS.

You should consider taking out insurance which covers other medical-related costs. There is often a long wait for NHS treatment, sometimes many months.  An insurance policy which gives you access to private medical care could give you much quicker access to the treatment you need.

Students studying on a short-term study visa and students studying on courses of less than 6 months are strongly advised to take out medical insurance for the whole duration of the course. Taking out health insurance is also advised in case of emergencies. For example if you were required to return home as the NHS would not cover this cost. Please see website below for more helpful information:

How does the UK medical system work?

The GP (doctor) surgery

The GP (General Practitioner) surgery should be your first point of contact for medical treatment in the UK. A doctor who practises as a GP is trained and experienced in diagnosing a wide range of health problems.  Therefore, the majority of illnesses or other problems can be treated by the GP, but if you need to see a specialist, the GP will refer you to an appropriate hospital department. 

In addition, GP Surgeries provide a range of health services such as vaccinations, women’s health clinics, family planning, contraception and sexual health. They are usually open during the daytime and early evening, Monday – Friday. 

You must register with a GP Surgery as soon as possible when you arrive in the UK, do not wait until you become ill. If you are not registered with a GP Surgery, they will not be able to offer you an appointment. 

Accident and emergency

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, you must now call 0300 10 20 247 before visiting A&E. A call handler will take your details and make an assessment, within 20 minutes you will receive a call back advising what to do next (i.e. an appointment with A&E). If someone's life is in danger, please call 999.

An accident and emergency department (A&E), also known as emergency department or casualty, deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies. Major A&E departments are usually open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but not all hospitals have an A&E department. You should only go to A&E if you have a life-threatening or serious injury that requires urgent medical attention. An A&E is not an alternative to a doctor appointment. If you would like to receive medical advice outside of your GP surgery's opening hours, you can contact NHS Direct Wales: 0845 46 47 (please see below).

NHS Direct Wales

NHS Direct Wales is a health advice and information service available 24 hours a day, every day. You can call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 if you are feeling ill and are unsure what to do, or for health information on a wide range of conditions, treatments and local health services. 

NHS Direct Wales can provide confidential interpreters in many languages. If your first language is not English, you can ask for an interpreter when your call is answered. Further information can be found here

How do I register with a GP (doctor) surgery? 

You must register with a GP surgery as soon as possible once you have arrived in the UK. Once you have found permanent accommodation, you can search for a GP surgery by clicking here and entering your post code. This will bring up a list of GP surgeries nearest to your address who are registering new patients. We would advise that you register with a GP closest to your home so that you do not have far to travel if you become unwell and require an appointment. 

You will need to visit the GP surgery to register as a patient. You usually need to take your passport, BRP card, student ID card and proof of address. You may wish to telephone the GP surgery in advance to check what time they are open and what documents you will need to bring with you to save multiple trips. In order to register, you will be asked to complete a registration form. This will allow the surgery to keep your details securely on file. If you are living at Plas Gwyn or Cyncoed halls of residence, the halls of residence staff will help you to register with a nearby GP. 

If you become ill, you will need to telephone your GP surgery to book an appointment. Each GP surgery will have different methods of booking an appointment. For example, some GP surgeries will require you to telephone at a specific time. Usually, non-urgent appointments can be booked in advance. Please make sure that you are familiar with the appointment booking process when you register. 

The majority of GP surgeries have male and female doctors so please specify if you have a preference when booking your appointment. 

If you would like to receive free medical advice in a non-emergency situation without going to your doctor you can contact NHS Direct. NHS Direct is a national health line which provides expert health advice and information relating to all health related queries. The health line is operated by qualified health professionals who aim to give you the best advice possible. The NHS Direct helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The telephone number is 0845 46 47.

Can I register with a dentist?​​

As you are an international student studying at a UK university, you are entitled to register with a dentist free of charge. The following link will take you to the dentists in Cardiff who are currently registering NHS patients free of charge: 

For dental emergencies contact your own dental practice. If you have not yet registered with a dentist, you will need to contact the Dental Hospital located in the University Hospital of Wales. 

The Dental Hospital, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff. Telephone: 029 2074 2413 and 029 2074 5337. 

What do I do if there is a medical emergency?​

If an emergency situation arises during your stay in the UK, you should contact the following emergency services by dialling 999. The emergency services include: 

  • Fire Brigade
  • Police
  • Ambulance 

You should only call 999 if there is an immediate emergency. 

Please remember that if you call 999 try to stay calm and be aware that you will be asked the following information: What service do you require (Fire brigade, Police or Ambulance). You will then be asked for details of the emergency including age of the person, name of the person.

If you are involved in/or a witness to an emergency situation, this is likely to be a very stressful time for you. Please contact the International Office Welfare Team for support and advice as soon as possible and they will be able to help you. If an emergency occurs outside office hours or on a weekend, please call the university on 029 2041 6070 and ensure that you inform the International Office the following day.