A guide to free UK student healthcare services

There are so many new and exciting things to look forward to when leaving home for the first time to study. As a student in the UK, you can look forward to living with your friends in halls or other student accommodation; pub hopping (in accordance with Covid-19 regulations, of course); and exploring university towns or cities that boast incredible history and architecture. Stretching your budget will go a long way to enjoying your student life but that doesn’t mean you can’t look after yourself too.

We’ve put together a guide to free or affordable healthcare services for students to help you stay on top of your cashflow as well as your health.


Permanent residents in the UK are entitled to free healthcare through the National Health Service (NHS).

The NHS gives you access to a doctor whenever you need, so long as you are registered as an NHS patient. That means that you should sign up as a patient at a local General Practitioner (GP) near your university as soon as possible after your arrival on campus. That way, you can access affordable healthcare services and emergency care while you are studying.

Your university will be able to advise on which local GP or health centre is best for you.

Healthcare for international students

In most cases, international students applying for a student visa will need to pay a mandatory immigration health surcharge as part for their student visa application fees if they intend to stay in the UK for 6 months or longer. This enables international students to access all NHS health services such as a consultation with a GP at no additional cost, in the same way as a permanent resident or UK citizen.

Are dentists free for students?

Although a medical consultation with a doctor is free of charge, dentist appointments, eye tests and prescriptions are not, and you will need to pay for these yourself.

Dentistry can be expensive in the UK, but you might be pleased to know that students under 19 years of age who are studying full time are entitled to free NHS dental treatments. Best you get those pearly whites checked before your 19th birthday!

If you’re already in your 20s and you are a student, you can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme. This scheme can help you qualify for free NHS dental treatment.

Can students get free eye tests?

Eye tests are not free for students, at least for those older than the age of 18. Full time students are eligible for a free eye test until they are 18 years old, after which you will need to pay. Alternatively, you can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme to receive an H2C certificate, which will grant you access to a free eye test.

Do students get free prescriptions?

Unless you are under the age of 18 years, or hold an H2C certificate, prescriptions are not free in the UK.

However, the NHS does offer Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPCs) which allow you to get as many NHS prescriptions as required for a set cost.

If you need regular prescriptions, you could save a lot of money with a PPC. Find out more about PPCs and buy one online.

Is contraception free for students in the UK?

Yes, contraception is free for most people from any sexual health clinic and most GP surgeries in the UK. There are 15 types of contraception to choose from, including condoms and the pill. Sexual health clinics also offer free STI testing services, which is an important service to make use of if you are sexually active.

Can students get counselling for free?

Most universities and many collages offer students free, confidential in-house counselling services with professional counsellors and psychotherapists. Your university may also have a dedicated mental health advisor on hand to assist you. If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know who to turn to, reach out to your tutor – they will know where to find your on-campus counselling services.

There are also a number of student-led mental health services you might like to make use of, such as Students Against Depression and Student Minds. Although these are run by student unions and not by qualified counselors, they offer students a safe space to talk about stress and depression with another student.

Can students with disabilities get free healthcare?

Students with learning difficulties, a health problem or a disability might be eligible for financial assistance. Students studying a higher education degree and living in England can apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Find out more about DSAs on their website.

The UK has made sure that affordable healthcare is accessible. As a student, you don’t need to choose between a healthy bank balance and a healthy you – you can certainly have both.