NHS services

This information tells you how the NHS works and what services are available for you. If you have any questions, please speak to a doctor or nurse caring for you.

General practitioner (GP)

It’s important to register at a GP surgery as soon as possible. GPs are doctors who work in community clinics called surgeries or health centres.

Everyone in the UK, including asylum seekers and refugees, can have GP care free of charge.

You do not need an address, proof of immigration status or proof of ID to register with a GP.

GPs give free medical advice if you are ill or worried about your health. They also give:

  • prescriptions for medicines (these are free for some people, including asylum seekers and refugees)
  • care for long-term health conditions (such as asthma)
  • children’s healthcare
  • mental healthcare
  • contraception (birth control)
  • health screening (a way to find if you have a high chance of getting a health problem)
  • vaccines

GP surgeries are usually open from 8am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. You can make appointments by phone, in person and (sometimes) online. The appointments might be face-to-face or by phone.

If you need an interpreter, please tell the receptionist when you book your GP appointment.

If you need to see a specialist (a doctor skilled in a particular subject, such as skin, allergies or heart conditions), a GP can refer you to one.

To find your nearest GP, visit: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-GP

Find more information about how to register with a GP on the NHS website.

NHS 111

If you have an urgent medical problem but you are not sure what to do, or your GP surgery is closed, you can get help from NHS 111.

You can:

  • call 111
  • go to 111.nhs.uk (for people aged 5 and over)

NHS 111 is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can get free medical help and advice from trained advisers. They are supported by experienced nurses and paramedics.

It might be possible to treat your problem over the phone. Otherwise, you might be directed to a pharmacy, GP, emergency department, dentist or another service.

Emergency department (A&E or casualty)

If you have a serious injury or illness and need emergency care, you can go to an emergency department.

You can call 999 and ask an ambulance to take you there. The 999 operator might recommend other transport, such as a taxi or car.

Emergency departments are open 24 hours a day and treatment is free of charge.

You might be admitted to hospital to be treated if needed.


GPs might prescribe medicines that you can collect at a pharmacy. You can buy some medicines without a prescription.

Asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to free prescriptions. You need to complete an HC1 form for help under the NHS Low Income Scheme. For help filling in the form, speak to your GP.

After this, you get an HC2 certificate saying that you are entitled to full help with health costs.

Healthcare for children

In the NHS, GPs give healthcare to children for free. It is important that children see a GP to have health check-ups, get vaccines and access other children’s services.

In an emergency, children can also use emergency departments.

Maternity services

Maternity services are led by midwives. You get free care throughout pregnancy and childbirth. You can give birth at home, in a hospital or in a birth centre.

You can find your nearest maternity service online and call to book an appointment. Otherwise, your GP can help you to register with a maternity service.

Mental health services

If you have a mental health problem, speak to your GP first for free advice and treatment.

They might refer you to a specialist service. In a mental health emergency, you can go to an emergency department.

Dental services

Some dental treatments are free for everyone. These include treatments to remove stitches, stop bleeding in the mouth and repair dentures.

All medically necessary dental treatment is free if you have an HC2 certificate.

You can find your nearest NHS dentist at: www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist For emergency care, call NHS 111.

Advice about non-medical problems

The Refugee Council is a charity with a free helpline that connects refugees and people seeking asylum with organisations that can help. Phone: 0808 196 7272, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, 9.30am to 12.30pm

Migrant Help is a charity that gives free advice on their helpline. Phone: 0808 8010 503

Phone 999 for the police, fire services and ambulances. This service is free and open 24 hours a day.

Leaflet number: 5299/VER1
Date published: April 2022
Review date: April 2025

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Language and accessible support services

You can ask us if you need an interpreter or information in a different language or format.

Phone: 020 7188 8815

Email: [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

Is this health information page useful?