While in Oxford, you may require the attention of a doctor due to a minor accident or sudden illness, or you may need a new prescription of a medication you regularly take. Based on a survey sent to IFSA-Butler students in the UK, of the 37 participants that regularly take a prescription medicine, only about 68% were able to bring enough medicine to last them the entire term.
Making the Appointment
Every Oxford college will have a nurse and an associated General Practitioner (GP). On the one occasion in which I had to visit the GP, I simply walked into the GP office (located across the street from Worcester College) in the afternoon and scheduled an appointment for 4 p.m. that same day. I have heard this may not always be case with GPs, but our college nurse always makes her office hours known and was always very responsive to emails. You will also be able to schedule an appointment with the GP over the phone.
For Tier 4 Visa Holders (Students studying the U.K. for more than six months)
If you are a yearlong student on a Tier 4 visa, make sure you register with the GP upon arrival in the U.K. and get a confirmation letter of having done so. At Worcester College, our college nurse facilitated this process and made sure we had all completed this step. By registering, you will then be considered a resident of the city for the duration of your study. If you neglect to register, you would run into problems when attempting to make an appointment later on because you would not be considered a member of the NHS system.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom is dramatically different from the private healthcare providers and private insurance companies in the United States. Of course, in both the U.S. and the U.K., the quality of care and length of wait time varies depending on where in the country you may be. And without getting into the specific differences between the systems, the way you pay to see a doctor in the U.K. will depend on what type of visa you have. In my experience, as someone with a Tier 4 visa (which I needed to stay in the country for the academic year), I had already paid a fee to the NHS when I applied for my visa. Therefore, when I visited the GP I did not pay anything out-of-pocket.
If you are not staying in the U.K. for longer than six months, and therefore do not have a Tier 4 visa, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for things like a test for strep throat or a visit to the hospital or GP’s office. However, as an IFSA-Butler student, you can submit a claim to the Cultural Insurance Services International and receive a refund for these expenses.
Getting a prescription from a GP
Before heading abroad, I would recommend asking your doctor whether you can fill enough of your prescription to last the duration of your stay in the U.K. If you are not able to take enough of your prescription with you, you may need to visit the GP to ask for a new prescription of a similar medication (if available). For example, if you are on a prescription birth control, it may be possible to pick up multiple months of your prescription at once if you prefer to stay with that brand. If not, I have heard from students that doctors in the U.K. will work with you to find a birth control most similar to the one you were taking in the U.S.
If you suffer an injury or illness while in the U.K., you may also need to fill a prescription. When I got sick, the GP associated with my college prescribed me a common medication and handed me a slip to show to a pharmacist. Finding a pharmacy is easy enough in Oxford: most beauty supply stores will have a pharmacy, and your GP’s office can give you a list of nearby pharmacies as well. To obtain the medicine, I simply handed the pharmacist the slip the doctor gave me and waited about ten minutes for them to fill my prescription. Almost all prescriptions will cost about £8.