Health services in the UK

A guide to the public health services available in the UK and where to go for help.


If you have symptoms of coronavirus, the first thing to do is seek medical advice. If there is a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus in your household, you must tell the University. We will support you to self-isolate if necessary, following the government guidelines.

Physical health

Emergencies only

Eg chest pains, breathing difficulty or heavy bleeding

Emergency treatment is free for everyone in the UK. 

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Or if you are well enough to travel, go to a hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.
  • There are A&E departments at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead hospitals.

Most illnesses or medical problems

Eg fever, persistent vomiting, ongoing conditions or unexplained pains

  • Make sure you are registered with a GP (doctor).
  • Make an appointment with your GP’s surgery (doctor’s office). Appointments are likely be over the telephone in the first instance, due to coronavirus. 
  • Waiting times to be seen by a doctor or a specialist might be longer than you are used to.
  • If you need to visit a hospital, your GP will then refer you for an appointment.
  • If your GP service is closed, or you are unable to get an appointment, you can call 111 for advice.
  • You can also visit a walk-in centre if your situation is urgent but not life-threatening. There is a walk-in centre inside Boots in Broadmead, central Bristol. There is also a walk-in centre at Hengrove Health Park

Medicine and minor health issues

Prescriptions and less serious health problems

  • Pharmacies (chemists) are normally found on the high street. Pharmacies close to campus include Cotham Pharmacy and Boots.
  • For minor illnesses eg diarrhoea, hay fever, cough or cold, you do not need to make an appointment with GP. You can get advice and buy medicines at a pharmacy.
  • Some medication will need to be prescribed by your GP. You can only be prescribed medication in the UK that has been approved by the NHS. If you already take a certain type of medication, you may not be able to get the same here.
  • When you have a prescription from your GP, you will usually pick up your medication at a pharmacy.

Oral health

Teeth and mouth

  • Once you have registered with a doctor’s surgery, you can register with a dental practice.
  • There are NHS and private dentists in Bristol.
  • Dental treatment can be expensive, so check costs in advance.
  • If you have a dental emergency, call 111 for advice or ask your dentist for an emergency appointment.
  • You may be able to get free dental care at Bristol Dental Hospital, where our dental students treat patients under the supervision of qualified dentists, even if you are not entitled to NHS treatment.

Eye health

Including glasses and contact lenses

  • Eye care is provided by opticians who are normally found on the high street.
  • An eye test is usually around £20.
  • You need a prescription to buy glasses or contact lenses, and the cost can vary greatly so it is worth looking around.

Sexual health

Eg contraception

Attitudes to sex may be different to those in your home country and sex is often spoken about openly in the UK. You are free to live according to your own values and should not feel under any pressure to conform to attitudes of fellow students.

If you become involved in a sexual relationship, you may want advice on avoiding pregnancy and/or STIs(sexually transmitted infections). Practising ‘safe sex’ is recommended.

For advice you can contact either:

Mental health

We know that international students face extra pressure when coming to study in the UK and may need additional support with mental health. 

Mental health emergencies:

If you have urgent mental health conerns, such as suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis.

  • Contact your GP surgery and request an emergency appointment.
  • Call 111 if the surgery is closed.
  • The Bristol Mental Health Crisis team can help in serious situations and is available 24 hours a day on 0300 555 0334.
  • Call 999 if your life or someone else's life is at risk.

Other mental health concerns

Eg ongoing conditions, depression, anxiety, stress or low mood.

  • Make an appointment to see your GP (doctor) who will be able to offer medical advice.
  • Use the University services, which offer many different types of support.

Health and impact on your study

Most students have health concerns during their time at university.

You can get support from our confidential Disability Service, who support students with a wide range of health issues. These include mobility issues and ongoing health conditions as well as common invisible disabilities including dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit conditions, mental health difficulties, autism and sensory impairments.

Let us know about your health problem, mental health issue or disability. You might be able to get free help with equipment, extra time in exams, mentoring or other support to help you achieve your potential.

The way disability is discussed may be different from your home country but our advisors are used to working with students from across the world and will be happy to answer any questions you have. Although we are here to make recommendations, it is your choice whether you accept any support offered by this service.  

You can also get free, impartial and confidential advice from the SU JustAsk service about extenuating circumstances, absence, coursework extensions and missed exams.

More health advice

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