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NHS in the UK: A Guide for Employers

Health care systems around the world vary and the type of public or private coverage available will affect your employees.  If you are hiring in the UK you will want to understand the healthcare system, what if covers, and if additional private insurance will be necessary.

What is the NHS in the UK?

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is a free public healthcare system funded by taxes.  It is overseen by the Department of Health and covers a wide range of health services for residents.  There is also a private health insurance system for those that want additional coverage.

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Who qualifies for the National Health Service?

The NHS is residence based and not an insurance-based system, so literally anyone that resides in the UK can access free services.  This includes expats who have settled in the UK and have been given permission to stay indefinitely.  If an expat is from a non-EU country, they will have to pay a health surcharge of GBP 150-200.

Expats will register with a general practitioner of their choice by completing a form and showing their passport and proof of address.

Which health services are employees entitled to from the NHS?

Services free of charge

Most primary care health services are provided for free including:

  • Doctor consultations
  • Emergency and accident treatment
  • Minor injuries
  • Maternity
  • Sexual health

Services not free of charge

Some services are not free such as:

  • Prescriptions
  • Dental
  • Eye care (with exceptions)

Client Case: Who pays for eye tests for DSE users in the UK?

An employee of our client in the UK wanted to know how to be reimbursed for the cost of an eye test.  The employee is a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) user and we let them know they were entitled to an eye test paid for by the employer.  We told them they could arrange the test on their own and then submit the expense for reimbursement.

Do you need more information about the UK?

If you are new to hiring in the UK, you might have other questions such as:

Is the quality of health services the same for both NHS and private insurance schemes?

Do employers also pay for eyeglasses of DSE users if needed?

Are long term illnesses and hospitalization covered by NHS?

As our clients encounter issues like these, we provide ongoing guidance so they remain compliant and meet all statutory requirements.  We make international employment simple.


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The information in this article is subject to changes in local legislation.

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