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Health & Insurance

The NHS: UK Public Health Insurance

The National Health Service (NHS) is the public healthcare provider in the UK. Established in 1948, it has been the cornerstone of healthcare in the UK ever since. The largely tax-funded NHS offers universal healthcare coverage to Britons, as well as legally resident foreigners and expats.

Thus, it is easy to see why the NHS, while still being a popular target of criticism, is more or less unrivaled. While private healthcare providers do exist (we have devoted a separate article to private health insurance), most people buy private insurance to complement the services the NHS offers.

“The” NHS: Not a National Body?

Technically, the NHS is not a “British” institution in the sense that there is only one body in charge of healthcare across the entire UK. England, Scotland, and Wales actually have separate public health bodies – however, they all are called NHS. The equivalent to the NHS in Northern Ireland is the HSC, short for Health and Social Care.

In practice, the differences between the services the respective institutions offer are rather negligible. As a resident of any UK country, you are entitled to NHS healthcare services in any other part of the UK as well. However, there are a number of more notable differences, for example in regard to prescription fees. Our article on the topic has further details.

What Am I Entitled To?

The NHS offers a wide range of services, covering every aspect of healthcare. As per the institution’s core principles, most of the services covered by the NHS are free at the point of use. This means that anyone registered with the NHS can use a wide range of services without paying out of pocket. There are, however, some important exceptions.

Oftentimes, you can obtain brochures on the different services, as well as consultations, in languages other than English, if you or your family members should be more comfortable with that option.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine