Updated 2 years ago

Wondering about the Scottish health care system? How can you access to health care services? Find out in this article.

Health care will probably be one of your main priorities on moving to Scotland. Indeed, the country has a modern and developed health system from which you can benefit during your stay, provided you comply with existing conditions. Make sure to inquire about these beforehand.

The National Health Service

The Scots benefit from the National Health Service (NHS) like elsewhere in the country. The NHS provides free medical care at the hospital and in the private sector through a third party payment system. In fact, expenses are taken care of by hospitals and health care professionals. However, dental care, specialized health care such as gynecology, as well as medication and spectacles are charged.

Foreign nationals holding a valid visa and planning to stay in the United Kingdom for at least one year are eligible to the NHS. This is why visas for Scotland, including extension, may seem expensive (around £ 200).

However, the following, holding a less than one year visa, are exempted from these fees:

  • persons who are under medical advice issued by a doctor, whether a general practitioner or a specialist
  • persons undergoing urgent or non urgent treatment in a hospital
  • persons who are under treatment with a general practitioner.


Foreign nationals who are working in the UK are automatically registered to the NHS by their employer. This also applies to foreign students making a 6 months stay or more in the country.

In case you have to register yourself, you will have to duly fill and sign an application form at the nearest NHS center. You will then be entitled to a Medical Card which will contain your personal insurance number.

The National Insurance Number

Every person who is registered on the NHS is entitled to a National Insurance Number (NIN). The NIN is a unique and personal number which will allow you to benefit from health, unemployment and retirement insurance.

All foreign nationals who are employed or working independently, or studying in Scotland, have to apply for a NIN. In fact, the NIN allows you to work and study in the Kingdom. It also allows employer to make contributions to the State.

Health system

Once you have moved to Scotland, you are required to register as an NHS patient at the nearest medical center and general practitioner to your place of residence.

Swiss and nationals of the European Economic Area must produce their European Insurance Card. Nationals of other countries, for their part, must produce supporting documents relating to their job or studies in the UK.

In general, your general practitioner will refer you to a specialist if need be.

Private health insurance

You will also find many private health insurance in Scotland. Note that companies rarely provide private health care insurance to their employees.

Some private health insurances include alternative treatments such as massage therapies, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

 Good to know:

For medical advice, 24/7, feel free to call NHS24 on 08454 24 24 24.

In case of emergency, dial 999.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Health system in Scotland Forum
NHS Health Scotland www.healthscotland.com
NHS24 www.nhs24.com

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.