Health Matters

General health information

You should be entitled to free medical advice and treatment under the NHS (National Health Service) if you are at the University for more than 6 months, although a prescription charge is made for medicines prescribed by your doctor. If with you, your spouse and children up to the age of 16 will also be entitled to NHS treatment. You must register with a local doctor as soon as you can after you arrive at the University (this can either be the University Doctor or a Doctor in the local area). If you wait until you are ill before you register you might have a delay in being able to see a doctor. Most doctors' surgeries have female as well as male doctors and, if you prefer, you can ask to register with a woman doctor. Following registration with a doctor, you will receive your medical card with your National Health Service (NHS) number. It is important that you inform the GP receptionist of any change of address during the time you are registered with them.

If your course is for less than six months, you may be required to take out health insurance from a reputable company, to cover yourself and your dependants. Depending on your individual circumstances you may be entitled to free medical treatment. Please check with Health Service staff for advice about your particular situation.

University Health Centres

Stoke

Coalport Building, Leek Road
t: 0300 1231765 
24 hour t: 01782 212066
Open: Mon- Wed 8:00-17:00; Thurs 9:00 - 13:00; Fri 8:00 - 17:00

Stafford

Stafford Court, near the Sports Centre
t: 01785 353570
24 hour t: 01785 662505
Open: Mon-Thurs 9:00 - 17:00; Thurs 9:00 - 12.30; Fri 9:00 - 16.30

If you become ill

If you become ill then you need to make an appointment to see the doctor as soon as possible. Explain clearly to the doctor why you feel unwell. You should tell the doctor all of your symptoms, even if you are unsure if they are related. You will need to say when you started to feel unwell. The doctor will ask you a few questions about how you feel and about your health history.

The doctor will make a diagnosis – tell you what is wrong – and how it can be treated. This might be simply by rest (such as with the flu or bad colds) – there are medicines and tablets available from the supermarket or chemist that might help (these are known as “over-the-counter” medicines/tablets. You should speak to a pharmacist for advice – pharmacists work in chemists and some supermarkets.

You may get a prescription (a small green piece of paper) for some medicines. The doctor will tell you how to take the medicines/tablets and how long for – you must follow this advice exactly. You then take your prescription to a chemist who will give you the medicines/tablets – this is not free. The cost for ONE set of medicine/tablets is £6.40 – if you have a prescription for 3 different medicines/tablets then you pay the standard fee (£6.40) three times (so the cost would be £19.20).

If you are very unwell and not able to attend class then you must get a sick note (the doctor will write this and give it to you). You might also want to fill out an Extenuating Circumstances form – speak to someone in your Faculty about this. If you are too unwell to attend class then you must also not go to work.

You must NEVER take medicine that has been prescribed for someone else.

Be careful not to take too many tablets – all tablets/medicines in the UK are sold with an information sheet. This will tell you how much you can take within a certain time. It will also tell you of any possible side effects, what to do if you take too many tablets/forget to take a tablet.
It is VERY important to tell the doctor if you are taking any medicines/tablets so the doctor can give you the correct diagnosis and that you get the right medicines/tablets.

There is self diagnosis available at NHS Direct and information is available in many languages. Alternatively, you can call NHS direct on 0845 4647. The operator will ask your name, address, telephone and your symptoms. A nurse will then call you back to discuss your symptoms and will recommend what to do next – i.e., rest or go to a doctor.

If you are extremely unwell, having breathing difficulties, chest pains or have a head injury you should go to the hospital. You can call for an ambulance by dialling 999. The operator will ask you your name, address, phone number and what your symptoms are.

Colds and flu

In the winter especially, a lot of viral infections such as colds and flu are passed around. You may find you have less resistance to them than British students. Apart from eating well, keeping warm and getting enough sleep, there is not much you can do to avoid catching a cold. If you do, stay in bed until you feel better, take aspirin and have plenty to drink. If the symptoms get worse or you are worried, seek advice from the University nurses at the Student Health Centres who also run walk-in sessions when no appointment is necessary. If your condition prevents you from sitting exams, meeting deadlines for course work or attending compulsory class tests, you must report to a Doctor or nurse so that a record can be made in your medical file at the time of your illness. Take a completed extenuating circumstances form with you to be signed by the doctor or nurse.

Meningitis and mumps

These are very serious illnesses, often prevalent among the student population where there are large numbers of people in close proximity to one another.  We advise you to make an appointment with your GP nurse to be vaccinated. 

Mumps is an infection of the saliva glands (in your mouth). It causes swelling of the cheeks and neck and can cause a sore throat, tiredness and difficulty swallowing. It is treated with antibiotics from the doctor. It is important to get treatment as soon as possible because mumps can lead to infertility in men.

Meningitis is an infection in the lining of the spinal cord and brain. If untreated, it can cause deafness, blindness, loss of limbs and, in very sever cases, death. It can develop very quickly – especially in children and babies. If you or any one you know has the following symptoms you should go to hospital immediately.

Meningitis symptoms:

  • A constant headache
  • A high temperature
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting and/or stomach pain
  • A stiff neck
  • Muscle pain
  • Sensitivity to light

In some cases, symptoms include cold hands and feet, abnormal skin colour and a rash of red/purple spots which, when you press a glass on top of them they do not disappear. 

Hayfever

Hayfever is a very common complaint in the UK. It is an allergy to grass and hay pollens and usually occurs in Spring and Summer. Hay fever symptoms can be similar to a cold, and include a runny or blocked nose, itchy/watery eyes, mild sore throat and repeated sneezing attacks. It can be uncomfortable but is nothing to worry about unless the symptoms last all year in which case you should see your doctor. You can buy many treatments for hayfever from the pharmacy, such as antihistamines (in tablet or nasal spray) and eye drops. You can use the treatment every day, however some antihistamines can make you drowsy (sleepy). You should ask a pharmacist which would be the best treatment for you.

Hospitals

Serious accidents or illness may need to be treated at a hospital, but treatment is available free of charge under the NHS. Alternatively you may choose to pay for medical insurance so that you can be treated privately. Remember that Hospitals are for severe accidents and emergencies only. For minor accidents, illnesses and problems and health concerns including pregnancy, you should first see the doctor in the Health Centre. 

Stoke's local hospital is Royal Stoke University Hospital located on Newcastle Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 6QG.
Tel: 01782 674455.

Stafford's local hospital is County Hospital located on Weston Road, Stafford, ST16 3SA.
Tel: 01785 230104.

Dental treatment

Dental treatment is also available under the NHS but you need to be registered with a dentist in order to qualify for reduced price treatment. You need to make sure that the dentist you go to treats NHS patients as many now only accept private (full fee paying) patients. There is a charge for all dental treatment, even under the NHS. For information on NHS dentists in the Staffordshire area visit the NHS List of Dentists or ring NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. To qualify for NHS dental treatment, you must be registered with a doctor

Sex

You may find that British people have a more liberal attitude towards sex and relationships than you are used to. Being British, naturally, we don’t like to talk about it! However, if you have any concerns or questions about anything at all please contact the Health Centre and speak with a nurse. 

If you decide to have a sexual relationship then it is incredibly important that you understand some of the implications. 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are very easy to catch and to pass on. They can also be very dangerous and do not always have symptoms. Common STIs are Chlamydia, Syphillis, Herpes and HIV. The only way to protect yourself against getting an STI is to use a condom every time you have sex. Most STIs can be easily treated with antibiotics from the doctor. The university health centres can offer screening for some sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are easily purchased from chemists, public toilets, supermarkets and petrol stations and they can also be obtained free of charge from the University's Health Centres and local Family Planning clinics.

One of the most common consequences of having sex is getting pregnant. If you are here with a partner then this can be a very happy time for you and the health centre will be able to help you and put you in touch with ante-natal clinics (services for pregnant women to check on the baby, on the mother and to help you with any questions/problems you might have). Ante-natal comes from Latin and literally means “before birth.” Once the baby is born you become post-natal – “after birth.”

If you do not want to get pregnant then you must make an appointment to see the nurse or doctor to discuss contraception. The most common contraceptives are condoms and the pill. The pill works by changing the way some of your hormones work so that you cannot become pregnant - this only happens while you take the pill. Once you stop taking it, you will be able to get pregnant.

If you have sex without contraception then there is an emergency measure call the morning-after pill. This can be taken up to 72 hours after sex. If you discover that you are pregnant and are unhappy about it then you must see the doctor immediately. Abortions are legal in the UK up to 24 weeks (this might change to 20) however, a doctor is allowed to refuse to refer you if they object to abortion for moral reasons.