A student guide to Scotland’s health care system

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All you need to know about Scotland’s health care system as an International student.

As someone studying in Scotland from Canada (a country that has free health care) I was worried about what access to health care and mental health care there would be when I moved abroad. Mental health is something that is really important to me, and that I knew I would need access to while studying abroad, based on my past experiences with my mental health. I wasn’t sure what help I would be able to access while I was here so I did some research so you don’t have to! Read along to find out what you need to know about your access to UK health care while studying at Edinburgh Napier University.

What you get

First of all, as part of your Tier 4 visa you get access to the National Health Services. This means that should you need a prescription or any sort of health care while in the UK, you’re covered, and there won’t be any exorbitant fees. Besides general GP visits, you also have access to the dentist and the optometrist, so that’s wonderful. My friend recently took full advantage of the cheaper dental care and finally got the braces she had wanted for years. These services are great because they are things I am used to being able to access as a Canadian, without any complications. As well, you’re paying the fee to be part of the NHS coverage when you pay your visa, so make sure you remember to actually use them when you need to. Check out the NHS website for what all is covered: https://www.nhsinform.scot/care-support-and-rights/nhs-services.

How to access the services

To access these services, you need to register with a general physician once you get to Edinburgh. This is the same as having a family doctor in Canada (or the equivalent in other countries). You simply find your nearest GP on the NHS website, fill out the provided form, and bring it with your ID to the GP’s office. Follow this link for all the things you need: https://www.nhsinform.scot/care-support-and-rights/nhs-services/doctors/registering-with-a-gp-practice. There are so many all over the city, and all you need to do is make sure your address is within the border of the addresses that particular practice services.

Other resources

Although there is no health services at Edinburgh Napier University itself, they do have a wonderful mental health team. You can book an appointment for counselling or CBT, or even if you just need to talk because you’re struggling. There are formal sessions, informal sessions, and even group sessions. They also have several online resources for help after hours, such as Big White Wall, an online mental health community that is accessible 24/7. Check it out here: https://www.bigwhitewall.com/v2/LandingV2.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f 

Essentially, you have access to all of these services as part of your tuition, and the services are available at all three campuses. Take advantage of them, because mental health is a serious issue, especially among university age students. Moving abroad can be taxing on your mental health especially if you have pre-existing mental health conditions, but you are not alone. There is a team of experts willing to help, and you’ll feel so much better having that support. Here’s how you can access these services: https://my.napier.ac.uk/wellbeing-and-support/Mental-Wellbeing/Pages/Mental-Wellbeing.aspx.

All of these things have been really helpful to me since moving abroad. The counselling and health services are all very easy to access, and the teams are made up of friendly people eager to help. Just because you’re no longer in your home country, doesn’t mean you can’t access health care when you need it! Be sure to register as soon as possible upon arrival, just so you always have the option if you need it. If you have more questions about health care while you’re studying at Edinburgh Napier as an international student, feel free to contact the international team. As well, if you come across any other good sources to help students struggling with their health, let us know!

Lauren is from Canada and is studying MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University.

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