The UK offers access to the National Health Service (NHS), a publicly funded healthcare system, for UK citizens and legal immigrants. If you are a visa national, you may have paid a healthcare surcharge (called the ‘immigration health surcharge’ or IHS) as part of your immigration application, which enables you to use the NHS once your visa application is granted. The NHS in Northern Ireland is called Health and Social Care (HSC).
On arrival to Northern Ireland you should register with your nearest health centre. Your practice (or “surgery”) will then assign a doctor, known as a General Practitioner (GP), who will oversee your routine medical care. There is no charge for basic healthcare, e.g. general consultations at a GP practice or at any NHS hospital (your GP will refer you if you need non-urgent hospital care). If your health centre is closed, you should be able to obtain the 'out of hours' contact number for alternative healthcare during the closed period.
International staff can also register with the University Health Centre at Queen’s as long as they have a passport and, if from outside Europe, a visa valid for minimum 6 months. If the visa validity is less than 6 months, International Staff Support can issue a reference to confirm employment. Registrations are from 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday to Friday and the processing time is approximately 2 weeks.
If you are involved in an accident or suddenly take ill, you may need to go to Accident and Emergency (A&E). The number to call for an ambulance is 999. The ambulance will take you to the A&E at the nearest hospital. The nearest hospitals to the University are: Belfast City Hospital NHS Trust 51, Lisburn Road Belfast BT9 7AB Telephone: 02890 329 241 Royal Victoria Hospital, Grosvenor Road Belfast, BT12 6BA Telephone: 028 9024 0503
Please note that the NHS care does not cover you for healthcare outside the UK and separate travel insurance should be arranged for this. If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), you should apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which will entitle you to some medical coverage while you are travelling within EEA countries. The EHIC gives valuable protection but it should never be seen as a substitute for travel insurance. Private medical insurance may also be advisable for travel outside Europe.
The NHS offers subsidised dental services. Children receive free treatment, as do people who meet certain other criteria (see if you are eligible here). Some dental practices work in the private sector (i.e. not funded by the NHS), or offer a combination of NHS and private services. It can be difficult to find a good dental practice which has spaces for NHS patients, so it may be worthwhile to ask colleagues or neighbours for recommendations. If you have private healthcare insurance, you should check whether this includes dental cover.
There are no special arrangements with opticians so, as required, you should register with an optician of your choice. You will have to bear the cost of any glasses or contact lenses you might need, however, University employees who use display screen equipment (DSE) may be able to claim back the cost of sight tests.