What to do in the case of an injury
Emergency treatment is available free for any person visiting the UK but expats must register for an NHS number to see a general practitioner for a routine consultation. This requires a registration process involving an appointment, interview and paperwork. Following this procedure, expats will receive a NHS number within two weeks, so this wouldn’t be helpful if you are only staying in the country for a short time. Fortunately, you can access private healthcare, which is explained later in the article.
Expats who have sustained an injury in the UK and have acquired an NHS number are free to register at a local GP’s surgery, where they can apply for a same day appointment. You are within your rights to demand an appointment within 48-hours, though it can sometimes take over a week to see a GP due to waiting lists. The same procedure applies if you have a dental emergency.
The government introduced new legislation in April 2015 affecting expats visiting the UK. They are now billed for 150 per cent of treatment costs at NHS hospitals if they don’t have insurance in place to cover them. These charges exclusively apply to hospitals and not emergency treatments or GP appointments. Expats will be asked about their residence status in the country when requesting treatment.
British expats can claim for injuries sustained while visiting the UK. For example, if you sustained car accident injuries, you could take legal action to pursue compensation. The amount of compensation you might be awarded would depend on the severity of the injuries and how they have affected your life. The financial impact of the accident will also be taken into account. Other injuries you could claim compensation for include trips and falls in public or private buildings and medical negligence.
Private healthcare is obviously not free but you will be able to bypass NHS waiting lists and visit one of the numerous private health facilities located across the UK at your convenience. Many health insurance providers include international coverage for expats so check to see whether you are eligible for this before travelling. Private assistance is perhaps the best means for expats to access quality healthcare if it is required quickly in the UK.
Medicines and pharmacies
Expats are able to access pharmacies and chemists for medicine but certain types will only be dispensed if a doctor has issued a prescription.
British expats don’t have the same healthcare rights as when they lived in the UK so it is important to be aware of the changes. The UK does have reciprocal healthcare agreements with some countries so you should always check to establish the exact situation regarding treatment, costs and accessibility before travelling.