(Closed) British bees – help me understand the NHS?

posted 6 years ago in Wellness
Post # 3
28 posts
  • Wedding: April 2013

The NHS is basically free at the point of use. That means that you won’t have to pay a penny for any services such as doctors visits, hospital visits, operations and procedures etc. Excemptions to this are prescriptions (which have a flat fee of about £7.50 per item- regardless of whether the drug costs 50p or £50K) dental services and opthamologists. These usually have a fixed fee (if you have an NHS dentist for example you will pay £18). However there are several companies which you can pay a monthly amount for which allow you to claim back this money (I am in one called Westfield Health for example). These are pretty good as they don’t cost a great deal and you will get money back for dentist visits, galsses, even if you have to stay over in hospital (which is free anyway) you will be able to claim a certain amount per day you are in the hospital. You generally get a certain ‘allowance’ you can claim based on the type of plan you get.

In general the way things work in the UK is that you do everything through your GP/ dentist etc. You go to the GP and expalin your problem, get assessed and they refer you if you need to see a specialist. You will receive a letter with your appointment in the post.

Regarding pap smears, yes, you normally get one every 3 years. You will just receive a letter reminding you that you are due a smear and you go to your doctor and make the appointment yourself. I am not sure if it is possible to get one annually or not. Maybe other bees can help?

If you want a physical etc I would suggest that you just go along to your GP. I have always found them extremely helpful and accommodating with things like that.


I hope this helps!

Post # 4
1636 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2011


That is a pretty comprehensive description of the NHS. All I can add is that one of the things I like about the NHS is they don’t put you through things that are essentially uncessary. If you go to the GP with symptoms that could require a smear test they will conduct one for you.

It is possible to get private health insurance but those policies will often not cover ‘requested’ procedures.

First thing to do when you arrive is register with a GP and I am sure someone at the practice can help you to understand the system.

Post # 5
899 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

I think the PP has covered it well. You receive a letter telling you that a smear test is due and you book an appointment. Most young/healthy people don’t go for a regular physical exam, instead we go to see our GP if there’s a problem.

A quick google search seems to suggest that the recommendation is not to have a PAP smear every year, but I’m not a medical expert.

Please don’t worry though – the NHS is generally brilliant. My partner was diagnosed with leukaemia at Christmas and he has received superb care. We haven’t had to worry about forms or insurance or money at any point during his care (he was an inpatient for most of Dec and Jan). I’ve personally had counselling and physiotherapy through the NHS too.

Post # 6
1478 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2013 - Creek club at ion, SC

you will be invited to a free pap smear test every three years but you can pay to get one done whenever you like. My mum recently paid for a one off test with BUPA, I think it cost like £80 and everything came through quicker so I recommend it. I wouldnt say they are more thorough or anything, I think that entirely depends upon the nurse. 

I have my issues wiith the NHS, and I mean serious issues with it but I am grateful it exists.

Post # 7
2016 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

spot on description from PP and as others have said it is generally not recommended to have a smear every year unless you are showing other symptoms.

The UK definately has a policy whereby they dont like to interfere too much when not needed especially with internat examinations due to the risk of infection.

We all complain about the cost of dentist appointments and perscriptions but actually in reality its a small price to pay for otherwise free healthcare. 

I know in my county if you call the GP surgery and explain why you want to see a Doctor they will assess the urgency and get you booked in. Sometimes it can be the same day, othertimes it can be a week later.



Post # 8
1636 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

I love the NHS. Ok, had a bit of a moan about having a bit of trouble getting a GP appointment today but when you really need it it is there.

A few years ago I was on holiday in Cayman and got sick with a blood infection – cost me over £1000 in treatment – thank god we had travel insurance, but had I got sick here I would have paid £7.50 for the prescriptions only.

By The Way – If you are out of work/student/pregnant/under16/over65 you don’t pay prescription charges

Post # 9
2070 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

Just wanted to add that I get free contraception through the NHS. I’m not sure whether this is the same for all ages or because I’m under 25 – another bee might be able to help on that one!

I’ve had several operations free on the NHS and they were great every time.

Also just in case the terminology is different, “GP” stands for general practitioner. You register with your local doctors’ surgery and you will be assigned one. They keep all of your medical records should you ever need to go to hospital, and they’re your first point of call if you have health problems (except in emergencies).

We only tend to go to the doctor when there’s a problem rather than for general check-ups (although my mum tells me this is different when you’re older…)

Post # 10
120 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

PP have covered this well but also you dont mention your age, smears are only available once you turn 25 just incase you are younger than this. and in regards to prescriptions if you have an illness like me (asthma) a pre-payment certificate works out better if you need 2 or more prescriprions per month and if you need a course of painkillers for example cocodamol, if they are cheaper to buy over the counter, the pharmacist will never charge you prescription prices and will just charge what the product costs, saves a lot of money this way. 

Post # 11
349 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2008

I’m an American expat in the UK as well, and I’m soooo pleased with the system over here! PPs seemed to have covered all the important things. I know it’s a bit different than in the States, but they take really wonderful care of you here, so I wouldn’t worry on it. Just register with a GP as soon as you come in, and there were some intial checkup/physical stuff so they are familiar with you…but other than that I didn’t have any issues with getting care I required.


Post # 12
772 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: April 2015

@Audrey2:  I’m under 25 too but I’m fairly certain that contraceptives are free for everyone 🙂 . On the prescription form it just says ‘was prescribed free of charge contraceptives.’

Just to add something about students and prescriptions, these are only free if you are aged 16-18 in full time education. University students have to pay for prescriptions although you can get some help with an HC1 form.

I have no complaints about the NHS, I’ve had to use it many many times from various scans to hospital stays, x-rays and biomechanical assessments, and I think we are very lucky. I have to have my ears syringed next week; I simply phoned my surgery, they accomodated my appointment around school hours, and I’m in on Monday. 

Post # 13
543 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

@Audrey2:  28 here and I still get free contraception (although I’ve recently gone with the implant, but again-totally free!)

Post # 14
855 posts
Busy bee

Research your GP! You can only register with a GP within a certain distance of your home, and if you don’t like your GP, it can be pretty hard to move.

To get an emergency ‘on the day appointment’ with your GP, you have to ring AS SOON AS THEY OPEN at 8am or whatever time. Everyone queues up to call and it’s really hard to get an appointment! Some doctors surgeries (the name for the practice, it’s not a surgery) half walk-in times (between 9am and 11am for example) and it’s generally good to get a GP that offers those in case you ever need to go that same day.

My GP is amazing but everyone knows it, so to get an apointment with her, I have to book 3 weeks in advance. It’s great for ‘general problems’ that you can predict – but not great for emergencies (like waking up with a chest infection, etc – for that you have to call ASAP).

NHS Direct is AMAZING http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/en/About/CallingNHSDirect

I sometimes call to see if I should book an appointment with my GP, or go straight to A&E at the hospital. I once called at 6am after I woke up with pains in my chest. I was worried, but didn’t want to be worrying over nothing – but they suggested I go straight to hospital. In the end, it was only gastritis (pretty bad heartburn!) but they rushed me straight through after hearing the words ‘chest pain’. I did feel ridiculous when they gave me Gaviscon (!!) but they gave me and ECG to check everything was normal and they didn’t make me feel stupid at all.

Also, I’ve NEVER had a physical, but if you are ever worried just talk to someone and they will do their best. And if you cry because no one is listening, that helps Wink

Post # 16
270 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

If you’re moving to Scotland, all prescriptions are free. As are eye tests.

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