Travel tips | Traveller tips | Medical & health information

Medical & health information

For before leave and during your trip

If you have special medical needs, or in case you become unwell or require medical assistance during your trip, here is some advice and information for before you leave and during your stay.

Medical insurance

You are strongly advised to take out adequate insurance before travelling to Britain. Your travel agent will be able to suggest a suitable policy.

Bringing medicine into the UK

If you want to bring medicine into the UK, first check that it is licensed for use. Always carry medicines in a correctly labelled container as issued by the pharmacist. Otherwise, bring a letter from your doctor or a personal health record card giving details of the drug prescribed, in case it is queried by customs or you require additional supplies. Remember that some medicines available over-the-counter in other countries may be controlled in Britain, and vice versa.

For further information please contact HM Customs and Excise Advice Centre, Tel: +44 (0)20 8929 0152.

Pharmacies & chemists

In Britain you can obtain prescription, and over-the-counter (non-prescription), medications as well as expert medical advice at pharmacies – often called chemists. We recommend you carry a letter from your doctor stating your prescription and dosage if you are taking any medication. 

Pharmacy opening hours

Pharmacies are usually open from 09:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays and limited availability on Sundays. However, in larger cities you will find a number of pharmacies open late during the week and on the weekend. For more information and to find a pharmacy near you, visit the National Health Service pharmacy information website.

Vaccinations & inoculations

You do not require an International Certificate of Vaccination when travelling to the UK, but you should check if one is needed on re-entry into your own country.

Food & water

The level of food hygiene in Britain is very high, so you should simply observe the normal precautions when consuming food products, i.e. ensure it is thoroughly cooked, or that it is within the expiry date. The standard of water cleanliness is also very high, and in general kitchen water supplies, tap water in restaurants and ice cubes are safe drinking water. You can find bottled water in most shops and supermarkets.

Emergency treatment

If you become ill while visiting Britain, you are eligible for free emergency treatment in the Accident and Emergency departments of National Health Service hospitals. However, if you are admitted to hospital as an in-patient, even from the accident and emergency department, or referred to an out-patient clinic, you will be asked to pay unless:

  • You are in receipt of a UK state retirement pension.
  • You are a national or resident of the European Economic Area.
  • You are a refugee or stateless person living in the European Economic Area or the dependant or survivor of such a person, regardless of your own nationality. 
  • You are a national or resident of countries which have reciprocal health care agreements with the UK. The following countries have such agreements in place: Bulgaria, Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Malta, New Zealand, Russia, former Soviet Union states - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, former Yugoslavia - Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and residents of Anguilla, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Channel Islands, Falkland Islands, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Poland, Romania, St Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands. 

Exemption from charges applies only to treatment needed during the visit. You are strongly advised to take out adequate insurance before travelling to Britain. Your travel agent will be able to suggest a suitable policy.

Obtaining treatment

If you are unwell during your visit to Britain, first consult a pharmacist – also known as chemists. They will advise on treatments available over-the-counter (for example: available without a doctor's prescription). Chains of pharmacists include Boots and Superdrug.

Medicentres

Medicentres are walk-in private medical centres based in London. No appointment is necessary and you will normally be seen within 20 minutes. New and repeat prescriptions may be issued. For general enquiries telephone +44 (0)870 6000870. Medicentre locations are as follows:

Victoria railway station
(Adjacent to Platform 15)
London SW1V 1JT
Open Monday-Friday 08:00-20:00, Saturday, Sunday 10:00-16:00

Waterloo railway station
1st Floor
London SE1 7LY
Open Monday-Friday 08:00-18:00

Plaza medical centre
120 Oxford Street
London W1N 9DP
Open Monday-Saturday 10:00-19:00

Bank medicentre
1-6 Old Jewry Street
London EC2R 8DN
Open Monday-Friday 08:00-19:00

Fenchurch Street medicentre
150 Fenchurch Street
London EC3M 6BB
Open Monday-Friday 08:00-16:00

NHS walk-in centres

NHS walk-in centres offer healthcare advice, information and treatment for minor injuries and illnesses. No appointment is needed and assessments are carried out by experienced NHS nurses. They are open and available to anyone who can normally access NHS services. They are located throughout England, with 8 centres in London.

Note: NHS walk-in centres are open to overseas visitors but a charge may be made.

Keep a written record with you at all times of any medical condition affecting you and the generic names (not just the trade names) of any medication you are taking.


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