The healthcare system in Scotland
Updated last year

Scotland has a modern and developed health system from which you can benefit during your stay (provided you comply with existing conditions). For the most part, healthcare is free to everyone living in Scotland regardless of your nationality — although you will have to pay fees for specialised services. 

How the healthcare system works

NHS is the National Health Service, which provides free accident and emergency treatment to everyone. The service is being paid mostly through taxes. Once you have moved to Scotland, you are required to register as an NHS patient at the nearest medical centre and be assigned to a local Scottish General Practitioner (GP). The documentation you will need to provide depends on your nationality ' see below, section 'Are you entitled to healthcare?' If you are a student, the university will provide you with the name of a nearby GP.

If you come to Scotland having found a job, you will be automatically registered to the NHS by your employer. (This also applies to foreign students making a 6 months stay or more in the country.) If you are self-employed, you will have to apply yourself but note that both your spouse and your immediate family will also be entitled to health care.

In case you have to register yourself, you will have to duly fill and sign an application form at the nearest NHS centre. You will then be entitled to a Medical Card which will contain your personal National Insurance Number (NIN). The NIN is a unique and personal number which will allow you to benefit from health, unemployment and retirement insurance.

Good to know:

You can easily find a General Practitioner near you by visiting the Service Directory of NHS and filtering by area. Find out more here.

Are you entitled to healthcare?

Entitlement to healthcare in Scotland is not subject to one's nationality, but to one's current employment/studying status. In general, full-time employees and students benefit from the full range of free healthcare services, but part-time students are also entitled to healthcare. As per the documentation needed, if you are an EU/EFTA national you should produce your European Insurance Card when registering. If you are a third-country citizen, you need to have a valid visa that allows you to stay in Scotland for more than six months, before you can apply.

More specifically, the free services you are entitled to are the following:

  • medical advice from a GP and most GP services
  • medicines (prescribed by your GP)
  • eye tests

You may be required to pay a supplementary fee for the following:

  • travel vaccinations
  • dental treatment
  • optical treatment (as a result of eye tests)

Good to know:

You can also use the website of NHS for free online advice. Find out more here.

Useful links:

NHS Inform
Live in Scotland: Healthcare

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