Seek more insights? Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

By filling out the form you agree with our Terms and Conditions, GDPR and Cookie Policy.

Staying Healthy and Secure in the UK: Healthcare and Insurance Options for Employees and Talents From Overseas

If you plan to immigrate or travel to the UK for the long term, you might be worried about the UK healthcare services for overseas talents and employees. Luckily, the UK offers excellent healthcare by global standards: as of 2022, the UK ranks 15 in the Global Health Innovation Index. Thanks to the UK’s national healthcare system and private health practitioners, non-UK citizens, including visitors and expatriates, may at all times enjoy world-class medical support.

From this article, you will learn all the benefits and caveats of the UK healthcare system for non-UK citizens. The article covers the National Healthcare Services (NHS), as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for migrants. Additionally, it discusses private health insurance in the UK, detailing types, costs, and coverage differences compared to the NHS.

The UK Healthcare System

What is National Health Services (NHS)?

The National Health Service (NHS) is a publicly funded healthcare system in the United Kingdom, renowned for providing comprehensive health services to all UK residents, mostly for free.

Initially, the NHS was structured with general practitioners (GPs) as the entry point for patients, extending existing National Insurance and general practice systems​​.

Over the years, the NHS has evolved to include various specialized services, with a significant focus on technological advancements, research, and specialized medical treatments​​.

The NHS operates slightly differently in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, each with its own structure and funding mechanisms​​.

Using NHS Services as Non-UK Citizen

What Is the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

The British government introduced Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) on April 6, 2015, to ensure migrants contribute to the NHS costs. IHS is paid alongside visa applications. IHS entitles individuals to full NHS access during their UK stay, regardless of frequency of use or preference for private healthcare. The IHS applies mainly to those seeking entry into the UK for six months or more and is charged annually for the duration of the visa.

International Health Surcharge Cost

In October 2023, the UK announced a decision to increase the IHS fees by 66%. The change, which was supposed to take effect on January 16, 2024, has now been postponed to no earlier than January 31, 2024. Therefore, the standard rate is due to increase from £624 to £1,035 per year for workers and family members staying in the UK for six months or more.

IHS Payment and Refund

The IHS must be paid during the online visa application process. In cases where an application is withdrawn or refused, applicants can seek a refund.

Failure to pay the IHS leads to application rejection.

How to Pay IHS Fees

The five-step payment process includes:

  • Step 1: Registering for the payment service.
  • Step 2: Completing a questionnaire to determine if you are liable for the healthcare surcharge or qualify for an exemption.
  • Step 3: If applicable, proceeding to pay the surcharge online. The payment should be made in the same currency as your visa application fee.
  • Step 4: Upon payment, you will receive an email with your unique immigration health surcharge reference number. This number will also appear on your screen post-payment. If you are applying from outside the UK online, include this number on your visa application cover. If applying from within the UK online, add it to your cover sheet, or write it on the application form for postal applications. This reference is necessary even if you are exempt from the surcharge.
  • Step 5: Completing and submitting your visa or immigration application form with the requisite application fee.

If you are applying from abroad, familiarize yourself with the specific payment guidelines provided by the embassy or visa application center relevant to your location.

When You Can Access NHS Services

Once you have either settled the healthcare surcharge, and your visa or immigration request has been approved, you are eligible to access services provided by the NHS. However, some specific services, including prescription medications, dental procedures, eye examinations, and fertility treatments, will still require payment.

Additionally, when seeking medical care in the UK, you might be required to:

  • Show your biometric residence permit, if it’s been issued to you.
  • Verify your immigration status online with a share code, applicable for those with a digital immigration status.

Dental treatments and eye tests are not included in the free services offered by the NHS, and you will be required to pay for these separately.

GP Registration Upon Arrival in the UK

Documents for GP Registration

To receive an NHS number, you must register with a General Practitioner (GP) as soon as you arrive in the UK. The registration is necessary for non-emergency hospital treatments and referrals to specialists.

To later obtain a hospital treatment, you must get a referral letter from your GP. The letter is essential for hospital appointments and provides a crucial medical history for specialist attention.

While not mandatory, providing identification documents like a passport, biometric residence permit, or utility bill is helpful.

Prescription Charges in England

  • Costs: Prescriptions are charged per item, currently at £9.35 per item.
  • Scotland and Northern Ireland: Prescriptions are free.
  • Wales: Free prescriptions are provided if you’re registered with a GP in Wales. An entitlement card is issued for those living in Wales but registered with a GP in England.

NHS Dental Services

NHS dental treatment in the UK provides clinically necessary services to maintain good oral health. The range of treatments covered includes:

  • Routine Check-ups: Regular dental examinations to monitor oral health.
  • Emergency Appointments: Immediate care for dental pain or accidents.
  • X-rays: Essential for diagnosing dental issues that aren’t visible externally.
  • Extractions: Removal of teeth as needed, including wisdom teeth.
  • Fillings: Treating cavities to restore tooth structure and function.
  • Crowns: Caps are placed on damaged teeth to restore their shape and strength.
  • Dentures: Prosthetic devices to replace missing teeth.

Certain treatments are offered free of charge, such as denture repairs or procedures to stop bleeding. However, it’s important to note that cosmetic treatments, like teeth whitening, are not covered under NHS dental services.

NHS dental charges in the UK are structured into three bands:

Band 1 (£25.80):

Covers an examination, diagnosis, and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays and a scale & polish.

Band 2 (£70.70):

Includes all treatments in Band 1, plus additional procedures such as fillings, root canal treatments, and extractions.

Band 3 (£306.80):

Encompasses all treatments covered in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures like fitting crowns, dentures, and bridges.

Private Health Insurance in the UK for Non-Citizens

Although the NHS provides free comprehensive healthcare, many British residents prefer obtaining private health insurance for elective procedures and quicker access to specialists. As of 2022, 11.7 million UK residents (22%) had private health insurance. The number of individuals increased by 83% since 2021. This rise might be due to the coronavirus pandemic and the strain on the NHS.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance offers faster access to care, a choice of specialists, and better amenities for elective hospital procedures. Still, it often excludes mental health, maternity, emergency care, and general practice.

Types of Insurance

There are mainly two types: Moratorium (excluding most pre-existing conditions) and Full Medical Underwriting (potentially covering conditions after two years)​​.


Popular providers for expatriates include Allianz Care, BUPA Global, and Cigna Global.

Health Insurance Cost Estimates

The majority of individuals holding health insurance choose monthly payments. As of 2023, based on information from the top five insurance providers and the leading five postcode regions, the average monthly cost for private health insurance in the UK is £60.09, amounting to an annual total of £721.08.


Private insurance may cover some or all hospital treatment costs and other services like physiotherapy or optical care. Average costs for consultations are around £200, and surgical procedures range from £1,000 to £10,000.

Employer-Provided Health Insurance

Many employers offer private health insurance as part of their benefits package. These policies may provide additional coverage beyond what the NHS offers.

Employees can expect access to faster and more comfortable medical treatment. Employer-provided plans often cover services that are either not available on the NHS or have long waiting times.

Public and Private Healthcare: Differences and Benefits

Public Healthcare (NHS)

The NHS provides healthcare that is largely free at the point of use, funded by taxation. It covers a wide range of services, including general practice, hospital services, dental care, and more.

Private Healthcare

In the UK, private healthcare is an option alongside the NHS. Private healthcare offers benefits like quicker access to specialists, shorter waiting times, and possibly more comfortable facilities. However, it is generally paid for either out-of-pocket or through private health insurance​​.

Private Dental Services

Private dental care in the UK offers a broader spectrum of services compared to NHS dental services. This includes:

  • Cosmetic Treatments: Procedures like teeth whitening, veneers, and composite bonding that focus on improving the appearance of teeth.
  • Advanced Procedures: Complex treatments such as dental implants and orthodontics.
  • Material Choices: A wider selection of materials for treatments like fillings and crowns, often including more aesthetically pleasing options.
  • Flexibility and Personalization: Generally, private dental appointments offer more flexibility in scheduling. Patients also can see the same dentist consistently, leading to more personalized care.

The cost of private dental care is typically higher than NHS services. Unlike NHS dental charges, which are fixed into bands, private dental costs are determined individually by each dental practice or dentist.

Patients choosing private dental care should consider these factors, especially the higher costs and the wider range of treatment options available, when deciding between NHS and private dental services. Private practices may also offer more advanced technology and treatment techniques, contributing to the cost difference.

If you are feeling lost in UK healthcare services and insurance, Tech Nomads offers comprehensive post-relocation support.

Whether you’re figuring out the NHS coverage or exploring private health insurance alternatives, our dedicated team is here to assist every step of the way, ensuring you and your loved ones receive the best possible care in your new home.

Tech Nomads is a global mobility platform that provides services in international relocation. Established in 2018, Tech Nomads has a track record of successfully relocating talents and teams. Our expertise in adapting to regulatory changes ensures our clients’ satisfaction and success.

To explore your UK relocation options and our post-relocation services, you may:

Subscribe to our social media platforms to stay up-to-date on global mobility news and opportunities:

You also may like

Learn more about Visas and Destinations on our Online Events

Explore our Events

Book a Call