Health services in the UK

A guide to the public health services available in the UK and where to go for help.

Physical health

Emergencies only

For example: chest pains, breathing difficulty or heavy bleeding.

  • Emergency treatment is free for everyone in the UK.
  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance, or go to a hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department if you are well enough to travel.
  • There are A&E departments at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead hospitals.

Most illnesses or medical problems

For example: high fever, persistent vomiting, ongoing conditions or unexplained pains.

  • Make sure you are registered with a doctor (GP).
  • Not all medical conditions require care from a doctor. You can find out what care you need by checking the National Health Service (NHS) Health A to Z guidance.
  • If appropriate, make an appointment with your doctor's surgery (GP's office). Appointments are likely be over the telephone in the first instance, due to coronavirus.
  • Waiting times to be seen by a doctor or a specialist might be longer than you are used to.
  • If you need to visit a hospital, your doctor will refer you for an appointment.
  • If your doctor's service is closed, or you are unable to get an appointment, you can call 111 for advice.
  • You can also use the live chat on NHS 111 and you can ask for a translator if needed
  • You can also visit a walk-in centre if your situation is urgent but not life-threatening. There is a walk-in centre at Hengrove Health Park.

Medicine and minor health issues

Prescriptions and less serious health problems.

  • Pharmacies (chemists) are normally found on the high street. Pharmacies close to campus include Cotham Pharmacy and Boots.
  • For minor illnesses such as diarrhoea, hay fever, cough or cold, you do not need to make an appointment with your doctor. You can get advice and buy medicines at a pharmacy.
  • Use the Patient Symptom Checker to find out how to look after yourself.
  • Some medication will need to be prescribed by your doctor.
  • You can only be prescribed medication in the UK that has been approved by the NHS.
  • If you are already taking specific medication, you may not be able to get the same here. Bring a good supply of your medication with you. It may take many months to obtain a further prescription if it is medication that needs to be prescribed by a specialist.
  • If you have a significant medical problem that requires specialist care, bring copies of your medical documents translated into English.
  • When you have a prescription from your doctor, you will usually collect your medication at a pharmacy. You pay a standard fee for an NHS prescription.

Oral health (teeth and mouth)

  • Once you have registered with a doctor's surgery, you can register with a dental practice.
  • There are NHS and private dentists in Bristol.
  • Dental treatment can be expensive, so check costs in advance.
  • If you have a dental emergency, call 111 for advice or ask your dentist for an emergency appointment.
  • You may be able to get free dental care at Bristol Dental Hospital, where our dental students treat patients under the supervision of qualified dentists, even if you are not entitled to NHS treatment.

Eye health

Including glasses and contact lenses

  • Eye care is provided by opticians who are normally found on the high street.
  • An eye test is usually around £20.
  • You need a prescription to buy glasses or contact lenses, and the cost can vary greatly so it is worth looking around.

Sexual health

For example: contraception

Attitudes to sex may be different to those in your home country and sex is often spoken about openly in the UK. You are free to live according to your own values and should not feel under any pressure to conform to attitudes of fellow students.

If you become involved in a sexual relationship, you may want advice on avoiding pregnancy and/or STIs (sexually transmitted infections). You should practice 'safe sex'.

For advice you can contact either:

Mental health and its effect on your study

Many students have health concerns during their time at university. We know that you may face extra pressure when coming to study in the UK.

It can be challenging to get used to a new environment. You may experience lonliness, homesickness, or feel stressed about your work.

The way we talk about wellbeing and disabilites may be different from your home country. We are used to working with students from across the world.

Self-help resources

If you feel you can manage things yourself, try our health and wellbeing resources to help you stay well so you can get the most out of your time here. You will find tools and tips to support you with your studies, including managing stress, building resilience and increasing productivity.

If you are struggling or need support

If you are struggling and are not sure where to get help, you can contact our wellbeing team. They are available 24/7.

Our wellbeing team are experienced at working with international students. We offer a free and confidential service and are happy to answer any questions you have. We may make recommendations about what support we think may help you. You can choose if you want to accept any support offered or not.

To ask for help, complete the request wellbeing support form. A wellbeing adviser will connect you to the most appropriate help.

If you are concerned about your studies

You can get free, impartial and confidential advice from the Students' Union (SU) Just Ask service about extenuating circumstances, absence, coursework extensions and missed exams.

Mental health concerns

If you are worried about ongoing conditions including depression, anxiety, stress or low mood:

  • use our self-help resources for many different types of support
  • make an appointment to discuss your concerns with a doctor or mental health nurse who can offer medical advice.

Mental health emergencies

If you have urgent mental health concerns, such as suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, get emergency help.

Mobility issues and ongoing health conditions

You can get support from our Disability Service, which supports students confidentially with a wide range of disabilities, learning difficulties and other health and mental health conditions. Find out which students we support.

You might be able to get free help with equipment, extra time in exams, a support worker or other adjustments to help you achieve your potential. To get confidential support, contact Disability Services: tell us about your health condition, mental health issue or disability.

More health advice

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