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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.

This is especially important if you have an ongoing health condition, particularly one that needs medicine, such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.

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.

Find out how to register with a GP surgery.

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.

Find out how to see a GP if you’re away from home

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.

Find an NHS dentist

Get help with dental costs

3. Check your vaccinations

MenACWY vaccine

Students going to university or college for the first time are eligible for a vaccine to prevent meningitis.

The MenACWY vaccine protects against 4 different strains of meningitis and septicaemia: meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases.

If you're a student going away to university or college for the first time, you should make sure you've already had the MenACWY vaccine. You can ask your GP for this vaccine until your 25th birthday. It's best to have it 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.

Measle, mumps and rubella vaccine

Universities and colleges also advise students to be immunised against measles, mumps and rubella before starting their studies.

The MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps 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, check with your GP to see if you're up to date. If you have not yet had 2 doses you can still ask your GP for the vaccine.

HPV vaccine

If you're eligible for the HPV vaccine, it’s important you’ve had 2 doses. It helps protect against genital warts and cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), such as cervical cancer.

If you missed either of your HPV vaccines at school, you can still ask your GP for this vaccine until your 25th birthday.

Flu jab

Get an annual flu vaccine if you have asthma and need a steroid inhaler or tablets. You should also get a flu vaccine if you have kidney disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease or other serious long-term conditions.

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.

Find your local sexual health service

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.

Remember to:

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.

You might want to try downloading the free One You Easy Meals app – available on the App Store and Google Play.

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:

  • disability
  • 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: 15 June 2023
Next review due: 15 June 2026