Getting medical care as a student
It's important to look after your health when moving away from home for the first time. This includes registering with a new GP and finding your local sexual health service.
Here are our 5 health tips for new students.
1. Register with a local GP
If, like most students, you spend more weeks of the year at your university address than your family's address, you need to register with a GP near your university as soon as possible.
That way you can receive emergency care if you need it, and access health services quickly and easily while you're away.
You can choose to register with any local GP. The health centre attached to your university is likely to be the most convenient, and the doctors working there will be experienced in the health needs of students.
Other health services available
Many university health centres have good links with specialists, such as psychiatrists, sports physicians, psychotherapists, counsellors and physiotherapists.
Having trouble getting an appointment? You can also always ask your local pharmacist for medical advice and support.
They may not be at the pharmacy counter when you go in, so ask the person at the counter if you can speak to the pharmacist.
Getting ill during the holidays
If you become unwell or need other medical treatment when you're at home or not staying near your university GP, you can contact your nearest practice to ask for treatment.
You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.
You can also visit an NHS urgent treatment centre, which can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes.
However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or life-threatening problems. You do not need an appointment and you do not need to be registered.
2. Register with a dentist
Dental problems cannot be dealt with by doctors, so make sure you register with a local dentist.
Not all treatment is free, even under the NHS. You may be able to apply for help with health costs, including prescriptions and dental care.
3. Check your vaccinations
Students are now routinely offered a vaccination to prevent meningitis W disease.
All 17 and 18 year olds in school year 13 and first-time university students up to the age of 25 are eligible as part of the NHS vaccination programme.
GP practices will automatically send letters inviting 17 and 18 year olds in school year 13 to have the MenACWY vaccine.
But if you're a student going away to university or college for the first time, contact the GP you're registered with to ask for the MenACWY vaccine, ideally before the start of the academic year.
This is because you'll be at particularly high risk in the first weeks of term, when you're likely to come into contact with many new people.
Universities and colleges also advise students to be immunised against mumps before starting their studies.
The MMR vaccine (for mumps, measles and rubella) is part of the routine NHS childhood immunisation schedule. This means most young people who've grown up in England will have had 2 doses of it in childhood.
If you're not sure you've had 2 doses of the MMR vaccination, ask a GP for a catch-up vaccination.
4. Get contraception
Even if you do not plan to be sexually active while studying, it's good to be prepared.
Contraception and condoms are free for everyone from any GP – it does not have to be your own – or family planning clinic.
5. Rest and eat healthy food
You'll greatly increase your chances of keeping healthy by taking care of yourself.
Student life may not be renowned for early nights and healthy eating, but getting enough sleep and eating well will mean you have a better chance of staying healthy.
You'll feel more energetic and be better equipped to cope with studying and exams.
- eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- buy wholemeal bread and pasta instead of white
- avoid eating fast food and takeaways
Eating well does not have to cost a lot and is often cheaper than takeaways. Taking the time to cook simple meals instead of eating out or buying ready meals is also healthier.
Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)
As a higher education student living in England, you can apply for a Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) if you have a:
- long-term health condition
- mental health condition
- specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia
The support you get depends on your individual needs and not on income.
Page last reviewed: 9 December 2019
Next review due: 9 December 2022