International students - healthcare in the UK and Scotland

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 Scotland and various support services.

Healthcare in Scotland for international students

If you are coming to Scotland to study full-time, and you live in Scotland lawfully, you can get healthcare from the National Health Service (NHS) from the day you arrive until one month after your course finishes. You may also get healthcare from the NHS if you are a part-time student and you are also working in Scotland.

Find out more about the healthcare services you can access on the NHS Inform website.

People access healthcare through a variety of channels and sources including:

NHS General Practitioner (GP)

A General Practitioner (GP) 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.

You should register with a GP as soon as possible after your arrival. There is a dedicated NHS general medical and dental centre on campus. Find out how to register with the medical centre.

Accident and Emergency (A&E) services

If you need emergency treatment you can use Accident and Emergency (A&E) 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. A&E is for emergencies only, such as severe injury, a suspected heart attack or stroke, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding.

Minor injuries units

You can visit a local minor injuries unit for non-life threatening injuries, like cuts, minor burns, sprains and strains, and suspected broken bones and fractures. 

Local pharmacy

Local pharmacists can provide advice and assistance with minor ailments and can prescribe some medicine.

NHS 24 (telephone line)

The NHS offers a 24 hour phone service who you can call on 111. The 111 service provides urgent care and advice when your GP, pharmacy or dental practice is closed. Find out more on the NHS 24 website.

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.

Most international students with a student visa will pay a health surcharge as part of your visa application. This then entitles you to free healthcare under the NHS. However, not all treatments are free and students from some countries may have to obtain additional insurance cover. Always check with your own Health Authority about what treatment will be covered. You can find out further information such as cost on the NHS Inform website.

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

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

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. To register you should complete the online registration form.



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.

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
  • Antibiotics
  • Insulin

There is no charge for NHS prescription medicines in Scotland.

If you have a minor illness, a pharmacy is the first place you should go for advice. NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is an NHS service provided by your local community pharmacy where a pharmacist, or a member of the pharmacy team, can give you advice and treatment (if you need it) for various minor illnesses and common clinical conditions.

Pharmacists also sell other health supplies – for example vitamin supplements, bandages and baby goods.

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.

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. Find out how to register with the dental practice.

Emergency treatment

In case of an accident or emergency, you can go to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) of the nearest hospital or, if the case is severe, you can call an ambulance 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 also call the University emergency number: 7999 (internal phone) or 01786 467999 (from a mobile).

If you live in University-managed accommodation, you will be given information about emergency procedures.


NHS Scotland advises all students to ensure they have received up-to-date vaccines for:

Anyone with a weakened immune system or certain eligible health conditions may be offered the coronavirus vaccine.

Phone your GP to check if you've had all the recommended doses you're eligible for. Your GP will check your records and advise if it's clinically appropriate for you to receive any vaccines or further doses.

For more information, visit the NHS Inform website.

You’ll also need to have a Tuberculosis (TB) test if you’re coming to the UK for more than 6 months and are resident in certain countries - see more about this and a list of countries on the UK Government website.