Healthcare costs in the UK

NHS healthcare is funded mostly through direct taxation. In 2017, the UK spent £197.4 billion on healthcare. This amounts to 9.6% of annual GDP, making the UK the 10th biggest spender on healthcare in the EU/EEA/Switzerland in terms of GDP percentage.

Most services are provided free of charge to residents. However, there are some charges for certain services. These include:

Certain groups such as low earners and those aged over 60 are entitled to exemptions or reductions on NHS charges. This applies to both dental costs and prescription costs.

How to register for healthcare in the UK as an expat

Registering for healthcare in the UK is done via registering with a general practitioner (GP). You can choose your own GP practice, although some practices may refuse patients if they do not live in the local area or if the practice is too full.

Registration is done at the surgery by completing the GMS1 form (also available here). You will usually need to provide:

  • valid ID, such as a passport;
  • proof of address, such as a utility bill

Upon registering, you should receive a medical card which can be used to document appointments. More information is available on the NHS website about how to register. This includes information about how to register as a temporary resident or homeless person.

Private healthcare in the UK

A relatively low number of UK citizens (around 10.5% of the population) opt to pay for private health insurance compared to other European countries. There are several benefits of private health insurance, however, especially if you have an urgent illness or injury.

Private patients can access specialists more quickly, avoid long waiting times, and use better facilities. Private healthcare patients often enjoy private en-suite rooms rather than sharing wards with other patients.

Some of the largest health insurance companies in the UK include:

Healthcare is generally available on both a personal and family basis. Premiums depend on your level of cover, lifestyle, age, and pre-existing medical conditions.

Healthcare plans usually operate on an excess basis, meaning you’ll need to pay a proportion of the cost when you need to use your insurance. Many UK employers include subsidized or tax-only healthcare cover in their benefits packages.

It’s also possible to pay for private healthcare on a one-off basis, should you need a specific type of treatment or an operation that has a very long waiting time on the NHS. Be careful though, as this option could cost you thousands of pounds depending on the treatment you require.

See our guide to health insurance in the UK for more information on private healthcare options.