Information for refugees – healthcare

General information on health and how to access services

stethoscope next to a computer keyboard

What is the National Health Service?

As a person granted humanitarian protection or refugee status, you are entitled to access the health services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) if you are living in Great Britain.

You can access the following services for free:

  • General Practitioners (GPs), also known as family doctors
  • Hospitals
  • Maternity services.

The NHS provides services to those who need medical treatment and can also help with contraception, family planning, healthy eating and mental health. Go to this link for an explanation of how the NHS works:

How the NHS works infographic UKRAINIAN (doctorsoftheworld.org.uk)

Your health will not affect your immigration status or affect what NHS services are available to you. None of the people who work for the NHS, including doctors, nurses and interpreters will pass on any information about your health to any other person or organisation outside of the NHS without your permission (except in very exceptional circumstances, such as if the doctor believes you may be of harm to yourself or others).

If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk call 999.

You can also visit your nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department if there is a genuine life-threatening emergency. If you have phoned 999 an ambulance may take you to the hospital. Do not use A&E for minor medical problems.

If you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life threatening situation, call NHS 111.

Seeing a General Practitioner

A General Practitioner (GP) is the first doctor you will usually visit when accessing healthcare in the UK. You may have registered with a GP before you were granted status.

Visit a GP if it is not an emergency and you need to see a doctor or nurse about your health. GPs are highly skilled doctors who are trained in all aspects of general medicine such as child health, adult medicine and mental health. Practice nurses are qualified and registered nurses who usually run clinics for long-term conditions e.g. diabetes.

GPs also provide services such as:

  • Antenatal care (care for pregnant women and their unborn children)
  • Vaccinations Immunisation information for migrants – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • Advice on smoking and diet.

You will not be charged for the majority of GP services.

How do I register with a GP?

You will need to register at a GP surgery, also called a practice, near where you are living as soon as possible, even if you are not currently ill.

The NHS website has a list of all GP surgeries in the UK: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-gp. You should check online to see where your nearest surgery is and how you can register there.

GP surgeries are generally open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 6.30pm, and some surgeries are also open on Saturdays.

To register with a GP, you will need to give your name, date of birth, address and telephone number if you have one. GP surgeries may ask to see proof of identity with your name and date of birth (such as your Biometric Residence Permit) and proof of address (such as your tenancy agreement). However, they cannot refuse to register you if these are not available. More information about registering with a GP can be found at assets.nhs.uk/prod/documents/how-to-register-with-a-gp-asylum-seekers-and-refugees.pdf

After you have registered with your new GP you might be asked to have a health check. This will usually be carried out by a nurse. It is important that you go to this appointment even if you are well.
If you move to a different part of the UK you will need to register with a new GP.

What if a GP refuses to register me?

A GP surgery can refuse your application to register if they have reasonable grounds for doing so, but a surgery cannot refuse an application on the grounds of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition. A GP surgery cannot refuse to register a patient because they do not have identification or proof of address.

If a GP refuses to register you, they must provide, free of charge, any immediate necessary treatment that is requested for a period of up to 14 days (this can vary according to circumstances).

If a GP surgery refuses to register you the surgery must notify you, in writing, of the refusal and the reason for it, within 14 days of its decision.

A GP surgery may not be able to register you if they have no space, but you will always be able to find another surgery near to your home that can register you.

If you have difficulty registering with a GP you can contact:

  • The NHS North Yorkshire & Humber Area Team on 01138 251986.
  • The Scunthorpe General Hospital Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 01724 290132.
  • Doctors of the World on 0808 1647 686 or clinic@doctorsoftheworld.org.uk.

How do I make an appointment?

To see a GP or nurse, you must make an appointment in person in the GP surgery or by telephone or online.

You can ask to see a male or female GP or nurse and your GP surgery will do their best to accommodate this.

You may have to wait a few days for a non-urgent appointment. If you think you need to see the doctor urgently tell the receptionist when you make the appointment that you need an emergency appointment. You will be seen that day if appropriate.

If the GP thinks you are too ill to come to the surgery, they may visit you at home.

GP appointments are usually 10 minutes long and occasionally longer if appropriate.

You must make a separate appointment for each family member as the GP or nurse will only be able to see one patient in each appointment.

Please make sure you arrive on time for your appointment or cancel it if you are unable to attend.

What if I do not speak English?

If you need an interpreter you must tell the receptionist when you make the appointment. Tell the staff which language you speak and they will book an interpreter for you or get an interpreter on the phone.

It is important that you and the doctor understand each other so that he/she can make an accurate diagnosis of your problem.

You will not be charged if you require an interpreter. Everything discussed in the consultation is confidential including anything discussed in the presence of an interpreter.

What do I do if my GP surgery is closed?

If your GP surgery is closed:

  • For minor illness or injury (cuts, sprains, or rashes), you can visit a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre. Visit NHS online (www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-services/) to find your nearest centre.
  • You can also get medical help for problems that cannot wait by calling the NHS non-emergency number, 111. This number is free to call and the service is available 24 hours a day. You will be asked for some details, such as your name and address. If you do not speak English, you will need to either request an interpreter in English at the beginning of the call or ask a friend or relative to make the call for you to ask for an interpreter.

How do I access specialist services?

Your GP will decide if you need to see specialist services (for example, a specialist doctor in a hospital). A specialist doctor can also be called a consultant.

Everyone has to wait to see a specialist; the waiting time can vary from two weeks to a number of months.

The hospital will write to you with details of your appointment.

If you need an interpreter, contact the hospital and let them know.

It is very important that you tell your doctor that you have either Humanitarian Protection or refugee status so that you do not get charged for any part of your hospital stay and treatment.

What do I do if I am pregnant or have children with me?

All pregnant women are entitled to care from the midwifery service- your GP can direct you to access this care.

All children aged 0-19 are entitled to universal support from the Health Visitors and School Nursing service. These qualified nurses with additional specialist training deliver the Healthy Child Programme, this includes developmental reviews of your child’s progress as well as access to advice and support regarding common childhood questions, issues and health concerns.

The 0-19 service is available through a single point of contact telephone number – 0800 019 9951

Health Visitors postcard   School nurses postcard

Mental Health Services

Mental health problems range from the worries we all experience as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions. Anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are the most common problems. If you have been feeling depressed for more than a few weeks or your anxiety is affecting your daily life, make an appointment to speak to your doctor.

Advice is also available on the NHS website to support you on your way to feeling better.

Contact information for local mental health services is also available at the Hub of Hope website.

Some organisations you can contact for support, help and advice include:

  • The Mental Health and Crisis Line for North Lincolnshire is operated by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust and can be contacted on 0800 015 0211. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for you to make a self-referral into Mental Health Services. One of the nurses will either be able to book you in for an assessment, or signpost you to a more appropriate service.
  • Support for mental health and wellbeing can be accessed through primary care mental health teams, available through your GP and a range of support is available through North Lincolnshire MIND, Printer’s Yard in Fenton Street, Scunthorpe or call 01724 279500.
  • North Lincolnshire Council Mental Health Social Work Team on 01724 297000. The helplines are staffed by specially trained volunteers who will listen to you, understand what you are going through and help you through your immediate crisis.
  • The Haven, located at Scunthorpe and District Mind Offices at Printer’s Yard in Fenton Street, is designed to help reduce the risk of mental health crisis by providing a safe space for people who urgently need to talk to someone. Anyone aged 16 years and over can call 01724 279500 from 4pm – 12 midnight.
  • Help is also available from the Samaritans, a charitable organisation operating a 24-hour service available every day of the year. You can telephone them on 116 123 or email them at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline is a free online and telephone mental health and wellbeing support service for children and young people in North Lincolnshire. Visit Childline website or call 0800 1111 for support.
  • The Life Central website  aims to give young people the information they need to help themselves make lifestyle changes for better emotional health and wellbeing.

Further advice can be found at:

What services do I access in an emergency?

If you or a family member has an accident or a sudden serious illness you should go to your nearest hospital with an A&E department which is free for everyone.

If it is an extreme emergency call 999 and ask for an ambulance to transport you to a hospital. This service is free of charge and should only be used in an emergency.

If you are able to, you may also make your own way to the A&E department.

Do not use A&E for minor medical problems.

Once your medical situation has been stabilised in the Accident and Emergency department you may need to stay in a specialist department of the hospital until you have fully recovered and can return home.

If you are admitted to hospital it is very important that you tell your doctor that you have either Humanitarian Protection or refugee status so that you do not get charged for any part of your hospital stay and treatment.

How do I access medication from the pharmacy?

Your GP may want you to take medicines and will write you a prescription. Take your prescription to the pharmacy or chemist. To find your local pharmacy, visit NHS website/find a pharmacy or ask for advice at your GP surgery.

The pharmacist can also give free advice on treating minor health problems, such as colds and coughs.

You can buy some medicines from the pharmacy without a prescription, including some painkillers and cough medicines, however you will have to pay for these medicines.

You may be charged for prescription medicines (see next section).

How do I access financial support for health costs?

Although treatment on the NHS is free at the point of delivery, prescriptions, dental treatment, sight tests, wigs and fabric supports are not free for everyone.

Some people are automatically entitled to free prescriptions and dental care including children, pregnant women and people receiving certain benefits. NHS eye tests are also free for some people (for example children or those aged 60 or over).

If you are no longer receiving benefits but have a low income, you can get financial help by filling in an HC1 form. You will be asked to explain your current sources of income and to provide payslips if you have a job. You will then get an HC2 certificate which is normally valid for one year. The HC2 certificate covers:

  • Prescription costs
  • Dental costs
  • Eye care costs
  • Healthcare travel costs
  • Wig and fabric supports

HC1 forms are available from your GP surgery, Jobcentre Plus, most NHS hospitals and may be available from your dentist or optician. You can also get an HC1 form by calling 0300 123 0849 or visiting NHS help with care costs webpage for more information.

Services and how to access them

Service Description of service How to access
Dental care

Regular check-ups allow your dentist to see if you have any dental problems and help to keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist will suggest how frequently you should have your next check-up based on how good your oral health is.

Dental surgeries provide both private care and care under the NHS. If you are not entitled to a HC2 certificate you will have to pay for NHS dental care.

You can register at a dental surgery as an NHS patient. You can find your nearest dental surgery nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist or ask the organisation supporting you for advice.

If you require urgent dental care either:

1) Call your dentist
2) Call NHS 111
3) If it is an emergency go to your nearest hospital with an A&E department

Eye care

If you need your eyes tested or need new glasses, make an appointment to see an optician.

If you are not entitled to a HC2 certificate you will have to pay for eye sight tests and services

There are opticians in most town centres.

If you require urgent eye care either:

1) Call NHS 111
2) If it is an emergency go to your nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency department

Sexual Health services

Sexual health services are free and available to everyone regardless of sex, age, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.

Sexual health services are provided by GPs and specialised sexual health clinics. You can visit any sexual health clinic; it doesn’t have to be one in your local area.

For sexual health services, you do not have to give your real name or tell staff who your GP is if you do not want to.

You can find your nearest sexual health service at www.nhs.uk/service-search/sexual-health/find-a-sexual-health-clinic
Maternity services

You can access maternity services for free care including during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care.

It is very important that you tell your midwife or doctor that you have either Humanitarian Protection or refugee status so that you do not get charged.

After the birth of your child extra support will be given in the form of child health visitors. These are qualified nurses who provide free support and advice to new mothers. They may come to visit you and your baby at your home.

When you first learn that you are pregnant book an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible and your GP will give you the details of NHS help and services available.
Mental health

Mental health services deal with a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. There are services for children, young people and adults including older adults.

Your GP will be able to provide information on what services are available in your area.

You can access NHS mental health services for free.

There are a number of ways to access support for mental health problems.

You can make an appointment with your GP and ask them to refer you or a child to a mental health service.

You can access contact information for local mental health services at www.hubofhope.co.uk.

Call the Mental Health and Crisis Line for Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust on 0800 138 0990 to get help and support at any time

Drugs, alcohol and smoking

It is illegal to:

  •  Buy alcohol when under 18, or sell alcohol to anyone under 18
  • Sell tobacco products to anyone under 18
  • Smoke in an indoors public place or workplace
  • Drive or sit in the driving seat of a vehicle when you have been drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs and some prescribed medicines
  • Possess or sell some drugs.

We Are With You can give you confidential, non-judgemental advice on reducing or stopping the use of alcohol, nicotine or drugs. Call them on 08081 430640 or use the online chat facility at www.wearewithyou.org.uk/help-and-advice/about-our-online-chat/#open-webchat.

You can visit your GP or pharmacy for further support and information.


  • A General Practitioner (GP) is the first doctor you will usually visit when accessing healthcare – you should register with a GP as soon as possible.
  • If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk call 999
  • If you urgently need medical help or advice but it is not a life threatening situation, call NHS 111
  • As a refugee, you will be able to access National Health Services including GP’s, hospitals and maternity services without charge.