The NHS across the UK

Is it all the same?

The NHS across the UK

Learning about the health system in the UK before you arrive is very important, but did you know that the NHS actually operates differently throughout the United Kingdom depending if you are in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland?

There are many organisational differences across the four UK countries, but there are also differences that affect you more directly. Let’s take a look…

Who runs the show?

Knowing who actually runs your country’s healthcare system is fairly important. You will know who to research and what to expect in the event of any unfortunate situations:

The main difference between the four governing bodies is that in Northern Ireland the HSC is also responsible for social care services.

Prescription fees

If you are moving to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you’ll be delighted to find out that any medication prescribed to you by a doctor is free. If you’re moving to England, however, you’re out of luck and out of pocket. Prescriptions currently cost £8.20, although it is estimated that around only 10% are actually paid for by the individual due to a number of existing exemptions.

Waiting times

Across all four healthcare subsidiaries there are not really any differences when it comes to waiting times. It is more a case of which hospital you go to, with the option normally available to choose which you are referred to if the waiting time is shorter.

With all public health services though, the waiting times can fluctuate with demand. While the NHS is rated very highly, many of those who can afford it opt for private insurance as they can provide access to facilities and professionals outside the NHS allowing for shorter waiting periods.

Car parks

Outside England most NHS car parks are free, with the Scottish Parliament abolishing parking fees in 2008. While not the most drastic of differences, it is certainly useful to know and can save you a few quid if you have reason to frequently visit.  

Further reading

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