Your first point of contact for medical treatment in the UK is through a General Practitioner (GP) or health centre. Most illnesses and other problems can be treated by the GP, but if a specialist is needed then the GP will refer you to an appropriate hospital department. Access to a GP or health centre is free to all students regardless of length of programme.

If you are prescribed medication you are charged per item - currently £8.60. If you are not eligible for free health care we cannot guarantee that the University Health Centre or your doctor will provide a prescription for you, but you will still be given free emergency treatment (but not free follow-up treatment or hospitalisation). You are strongly advised to take out private medical insurance from a reputable company to cover yourself and any dependants before you leave home.

Registering with a GP or Health Centre

Exeter-based students: You should register with the Student Health Centre online before you get here. Additional information on the services can be found on the Health Centre homepage.

Penryn-based students: The Penryn Surgery is available in the Tremough House Annexe, Penryn Campus, five days a week during term time. You can register with Penryn Surgery during ‘Move-in’ weekend in The Compass (Exchange Building), or email to request a registration form. 

If you will be living in Falmouth, The Compass team will have details about other local doctor surgeries in Falmouth.

If you are an EU/EEA student or Swiss national you need to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or private medical insurance before coming to the UK. For details please refer to information specific to your country of residence.

If you are a Tier 4 student on a course of more than 6 months you will likely have paid an Immigration Health Surcharge along with your visa application. The payment will go directly into the NHS and you will be entitled to receive the same cover as a permanent UK resident.

Hospital treatment and Mental Health Services

If you are referred to a hospital or mental health service for treatment you may incur a charge if you are not covered by one of the following:

  • Payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • A valid EHIC obtained in EU/EEA country or Swiss state
  • Private medical insurance

Nationals of a country with reciprocal health care agreement with the UK may still be charged for some treatment as most agreements are limited to immediate medical treatment to allow you to return to your home country.

Private medical insurance

If you are on a short course (less than six months) you are unlikely to be entitled to free health care under the National Health Service other than emergency treatment in a hospital casualty department. It is important, therefore, to take out comprehensive medical insurance before you leave your home country. You must ensure you have adequate insurance cover as health care in the UK can be very expensive. Details of eligibility for NHS care can be found at the Department of Health website.

Medical history

If you will be registering with a doctor please ensure that you bring the following information for yourself and your family, if they are coming with you:

• Details of any past illnesses requiring medical treatment
• A full record of past immunizations

If you are currently taking medicines please make sure you bring adequate medication to cover the first few weeks at University. (Take your medicines or the empty containers to the Health Centre when you have your first doctor’s appointment).
If you have had a serious illness, if you are currently undergoing medical treatment or hospital investigation, or if you are currently taking medication, then a brief doctor’s letter in English, summarizing your medical history, will help the Health Centre to provide you with uninterrupted health care. Please do not send this in advance of your arrival but bring it with you when you register at the Health Centre. You are responsible for any fee your doctor may charge.

Any information given to the Health Centre will be treated in strict medical confidence and will not be divulged to anyone without your consent.

Tuberculosis screening

When obtaining your entry clearance or on entry to Britain you may be asked to undertake a brief medical examination including a chest x-ray to exclude tuberculosis (TB) – this is a normal requirement and should not worry you. If you have had a recent medical check-up in your home country, please bring a letter from your doctor or hospital confirming the results.


If you are eligible for NHS treatment you will be eligible for treatment from a dentist accepting NHS patients. Please note that dentists accepting new patients are extremely limited – hence the need for private insurance. There are charges for NHS dentist services based on a percentage cost up to a maximum of approximately £375.


Eye tests are available at opticians, which can be found in the High Street. You will have to pay a charge of around £25 for an eye test. You will need to pay for lenses and frames which can cost from £35 to over £350.

Further information

National Health Service
Keeping Healthy: A Practical Guide to Medical Services in the UK