Key points in planning your stay

Here at Stirling, your health and wellbeing are extremely important to us. That's why we've set up a quick guide to walk you through healthcare in the UK and various support services.


If you're an European Economic Area (EEA) resident, obtain a European Health Insurance Card before leaving your country.


If you have an ongoing condition, discuss your plans with your doctor at home before you travel.


Consider whether you want or need private medical insurance.

Medical care in the UK

People access medical care in the UK through a variety of channels and sources. These channels include:

NHS General Practitioner (GP)

A General Practitioner is a doctor with a wide range of skills and expertise. GPs can treat many illnesses and conditions and provide a first diagnosis before referring to specialists in more severe cases.

Everyone in the UK registers with a GP. Most GP surgeries provide a range of services including special clinics, travel vaccinations, services for young children and parents as well as general medical assistance.

If you need medical help, you will most likely need to contact your GP. If your GP decides that you need specialist help, they will refer you to a specialist doctor, service or hospital.

GPs provide a 24 hour service: if you contact a medical centre out side normal opening hours your call will be transferred to a out-of-hours service that will deal with your call.

Accident and Emergency (A&E) services at hospitals

If you need emergency treatment you can use Accident and Emergency services at a hospital. At A&E, medical staff will assess the urgency of your condition and treat you. If you call an ambulance for an emergency you will be taken to the nearest A&E service.

Local pharmacy

Local pharmacists can provide advice and assistance with minor ailments and have the power to prescribe some medicine.

National Health Service telephone advice

The NHS also provides a 24 hour advice service by telephone. Trained staff can advise you and refer you to appropriate services. The number for dialling in Scotland is 0845 424 2424.

Private medical care

Some people in the UK take out private medical insurance, or pay directly for private treatment. In some cases this means you can access a specialist directly, or more quickly.

Paying for medical care

Access to most National Health Services (NHS) is through your GP so it is very important to register with a GP when you arrive in the UK.

If you're an undergraduate or postgraduate international student with a Student visa, you'll need to pay a health surcharge as part of your visa application. This then entitles you to free healthcare under the NHS. Treatment from medical staff in the NHS is free at the point of service – you do not pay to see a doctor. However, you may need to pay for some optical treatment, for glasses and for dental treatment. You must pay the healthcare surcharge for the full duration of your visa - find out further information such as cost.

If you're an EEA national you should obtain, from your own health authority, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK. Check with your own Health Authority what treatment will be covered.

Private medical treatment is charged at market rates and you should check any insurance policy carefully before undertaking private treatment.

For full information, see the information sheet 'Health and healthcare' from the UK Council for International Student Affairs.


Access to medicine is strictly controlled in the UK. This means that many medicines you can buy freely from a pharmacy in your home country may be restricted in the UK.

Pharmacists sell medicines and remedies for a wide range of medical conditions. If you need a specific medicine, you may need a Prescription – this is an instruction from your GP or other doctor authorising the Pharmacist to give you a restricted medicine.

Pharmacists can also supply some restricted medicines for minor medical problems if they believe it is advisable. Pharmacists also sell other health supplies – for example vitamin supplements, bandages and baby goods.

Some examples of medicines for which you need a prescription in the UK:

  • Asthma medicines, including inhalers
  • Most medicines that contain steroids or strong hydrocortisone –including skin creams for dermatitis and eczema
  • All antibiotics
  • Insulin

There is no charge for NHS prescription medicines in Scotland.

Students with an ongoing medical condition

If you have a medical condition for which you are currently receiving treatment, and that treatment will continue in the UK, please:

  • Discuss your studies in the UK with your doctor at home
  • Make sure you have a supply of medicines for the first weeks of your stay in the UK and carry a letter from your doctor confirming that these medicines are necessary for your treatment
  • Contact the Medical Centre on campus to tell them you will be coming to Stirling. The staff will need information from you and your current doctor about your medical history and treatments, any investigations that have been made and your current treatment and medication.

These steps will help medical staff in your country and in Stirling make arrangements for your care in the UK and ensure that you do not run out of essential medicines in the first weeks of your stay.

Registering with a doctor

You should register with a local doctor (GP) as soon as possible after your arrival. There is a Medical Centre on campus with which you can register – most students choose to register here. Alternatively a list of GPs, dentists and opticians can be obtained from the Student Information and Advice Centre, Room 4Y4, Cottrell Building.

If you plan to register with the Medical Centre on Campus, please visit and complete the online registration form fully and return it immediately. We require two proofs of identification – one should include your Stirling address. Please note when completing the form, the address on the form should be your Stirling address.  

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions we are operating slightly differently. If you require to speak to a healthcare care professional you should call the Medical Centre between 8:00am and 11:00am, Monday to Friday. A member of our admin team will take your details and ask for a brief description why you require to speak to someone and will arrange a call back. If the healthcare professional feels that you need to be assessed face to face an appointment will be arranged at a convenient time.  


Dental and optical care

Dental and Optical care are also offered under the National Health Service, but there may be a charge associated with treatments. There is no need to register with an optician but it is advisable to locate and register with a dentist shortly after arrival. There is a dental practice located in the campus Medical Centre. You can find more information about this after your arrival in the UK.

Emergency treatment

In case of accident or emergency, you can either go to the Accident and Emergency or Casualty Department of the nearest hospital or, if the case is very serious, you can call an ambulance by telephone, by dialling 999. Ask for the ambulance service and give the information asked for by the emergency operator. (In the event of an emergency on-campus, you must call the University emergency number 2222.)

If you are living in University accommodation you will be given information about emergency procedures. The Medical Centre on campus can also give you more information about looking after your health and dealing with emergencies.

Medical insurance

You may want to consider taking out medical insurance to cover private medical care costs if you fall ill, and other possible related costs such as costs of returning to your home country for treatment, costs of returning home if a relative is ill or costs of a relative visiting you if you are ill. If you have private medical insurance in your home country, check if you can extend this to cover your stay in the UK