Frequently Asked Questions About Free Student Healthcare in the UK

Posted 11 Jan 2022

Healthcare probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you move to university. Getting an eye test isn’t the most fun freshers week activity, we’ll admit. As a result, it can mean tasks like signing up for a GP quickly fall down your to-do list. 

But it’s important that you’re aware of what free healthcare you’re entitled to as a student. This way, you can be better prepared for if anything goes wrong and you need to seek treatment. 

In this blog post, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about free student healthcare in the UK, including information about dental care, eye tests, contraception and more. 

Do Uni Students Get Free Dental Care?

Not all students are eligible for free dental care and, in most cases, you will have to pay for treatment. 

However, you can get free dental treatment if you’re:

  • Under 19 and in full-time education
  • Under 18 (or under 26 in Scotland)
  • Pregnant or gave birth in the last 12 months
  • Under 20 and dependent on someone who receives Jobseeker’s Allowance
Toothbrushes

How Do I Register at a Dental Practice?

To find a dentist near you, simply use the NHS dentist search tool

Some practices will have a waiting list. This means they may not be taking on NHS patients and you'll have to shop around. (Yes, that does mean picking up the phone…)

You can, of course, go private, but this will be very costly. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend on those pearly whites! 

How Much Does Dental Treatment Cost?

There are three bands of dental treatment on the NHS:

Band 1

Cost: £23.80

This is the standard fee which covers your checkup, plus any X-rays and a scale and polish. 

Band 2

Cost: £65.20

Band 2 includes everything in Band 1 as well as other treatments like extractions, fillings, root canal treatment etc. 

Band 3

Cost: £282.80

This is for more complex treatments like crowns and dentures.

Do University Students Get Free Prescriptions?

If you’re a university student in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or you’re under 18 in England, prescriptions are free. 

Otherwise, the standard fee in England is £9.35 per item

Don’t worry though, as you can get support if you need help paying these costs. 

For example, if you know you’ll need a repeat prescription for several months, you can get a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). This lets you pay up front for three (£30.25) or 12 months (£108.10), which can save you money in the long run. 

Condoms

How Do I Access Free Contraception?

Thankfully, there are lots of places you can get free contraception as a student in the UK, such as:

  • Sexual health clinic 
  • GP 
  • Community contraceptive clinic

Your university may even provide free contraception, too. Look out for stalls at freshers week events, for example. 

Learn more about where you can get contraception, plus information about the different methods, in this NHS contraception guide

Are Eye Tests Free for Students?

You’re not automatically guaranteed a free eye test as a student. But you can get one for free if you’re:

  • Under 18
  • Blind or partially sighted
  • Have a HC2 certificate 
  • Receive Jobseeker’s Allowance or income support
  • Have glaucoma or diabetes

Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for your eye test, glasses and lenses, although sometimes branches offer free or discounted tests, so keep an eye out (literally!) On average, you can expect to pay around £20-25 for an eye test, and the price of glasses can vary massively. Channel your inner Paris Hilton and shop around for your new specs to get the best deal. 

International student with luggage

What Free Healthcare Are International Students Entitled To?

The rules are different if you’re coming from an EU versus a non-EU country. It also depends on when you arrived in the UK, too. 

For EU students who arrived pre-2021, you can access free healthcare as long as you have settled or pre-settled status. 

Otherwise, if you’re an EU student who arrived in 2021 or you’re from a non-EU country, you’ll have to pay for a student visa. As well as this, you’ll have to pay an immigration health surcharge - only once this is paid can you access free healthcare like any other UK citizen. 

You can also get health insurance to cover private medical treatment, for example, but this comes at an additional cost. 

Find out everything you need to know about healthcare for international students on the UK government website

What Is the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)?

There is additional financial support available for some students in the UK with certain medical conditions. 

You can apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) at the same time as student finance if you have a:

  • Mental health condition
  • Disability 
  • Learning difficulty 

The amount of money you’ll receive depends on how much extra support is needed. 

How Do I Apply for a HC2 Certificate as a Student?

Struggling and need more financial support to pay for prescriptions and medical bills? You may be eligible for a HC2 certificate, which means the NHS will fully or partially pay for the costs. 

You’re eligible if you’re:

  • On certain benefits
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
  • Under 19
  • Have certain medical conditions 

Check to see if you’re entitled to apply for a HC2 certificate on the NHS website

Final Thoughts

Although you’ll likely have to pay for healthcare like dental treatment, eye tests and prescriptions as a student, there are a lot of exceptions. You can also get support in the form of the DSA or a HC2 certificate. 

If you’re unsure, your university may be able to provide advice, or you can always talk to your GP. 

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Posted 11 Jan 2022