Welcome to the UK – Health advice for Chinese students

This article is sponsored by Superdrug.

By Tiffany Lo – Student contributor at the University of Birmingham 

Welcome abroad – Welcome to the UK!

For those who have completed all the unpacking and room-decorating businesses – Congratulations! You are almost all settled! It is time for you to have a think about health services provided in the UK. But don’t you worry about it – I am here to help!

What is NHS?

NHS stands for ‘National Health Service’. It is a public funded system that provides health care for residents in the UK.

The fee to which we should pay has already been covered by our VISA’s surcharge (£150 per visa year for students).

In other words, you will NOT need a health care insurance (only if you are staying in the UK more than 6 months) from your own country, since you are covered by the NHS!

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What is GP?

GP stands for ‘General Practitioner’ doctor. To access the NHS health care services, you will need to register with a GP at your nearest health centre. They are the ones who deal with family health, from small babies to the elderly. Some also work closely with your University to support students at all times.

It is worthwhile to search on your University’s intranet for any GP suggestions – they know the best!

To register with your local GP, you will need to complete and submit the GMS1 form. This form is available in all health centres, or you can download it from the NHS site. Bare in mind that some of the practices are using their own versions, which is slightly different to the form provided online. Once you have submitted the form, the NHS will write to you to you to confirm your registration. Please do bring along your proof of identity (Passport/ID Card) and visa on your visits. The registration should be FREE of charge.

Feeling ill?

The system here in the UK is extremely different to where we came from: Apart from any emergency circumstances, it is nearly impossible to get treated immediately on the day without appointment booking and long hours of waiting.

A lot of health centres also provide online appointment booking services. Alternatively, you can either make a call or visit the centre’s reception in person. You will need to enter your name, date of birth, and appointment time during your booking.

If you have difficulties in speaking English, you may request for an interpreter from your practice. This service should be free.

For emergency needs, you can call 999 emergency telephone number.

For non-emergency needs (when you need medical help fast but not a 999 emergency), you can call 111 to seek help fast, easy, and free.

On the day of the appointment, it is better to arrive the centre 15 minutes before your booking time. Once arrived, do not forget to inform the reception about your booking. They will be able to tell you which room you will be in and the name of your doctor. Normally, the waiting time is about 15-30 minutes. Please wait patiently in the waiting area until your name has been called.

Like at home, you will be asked about your symptoms, duration of your illness, and medical histories by your doctors. After that, the GP will write you a prescription accordingly. You will be able to purchase the right medicines from your local pharmacy, such as Superdrug. (Superdrug also provide an online doctor service! Please visit their website for more details.) Other than that, you can also purchase basic Chinese Medicines at some Chinese/Oriental supermarkets. There may also be one or two Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners located near you.

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There are a few things you should be aware of when staying in the UK:

1. Changes in weather and temperature – During Autumn and Spring, there is a huge temperature difference between day and night. Be sure to bring a jacket wherever you go – you’ll need it!

2. You may experience a stronger hay fever in the UK due to the environment. Although there is no treatment for this allergy, you may prevent the symptoms of hay fever by wearing sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes, and applying a small amount of Vaseline to the nasal openings to trap pollen grains from entering. You may also check on the Pollen Forecast and make sure you stay indoor when the index is high.

Hope you will have a wonderful time in this beautiful country.

All the best in your studies and social life!

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