When you're studying abroad, it's really important to know how to look after your physical and mental health, including how and where to access support.

Accessing medical care

Student Visa holders

When you applied for your Student Visa, you will have also paid for the Immigration Health Surcharge which entitles you to free medical advice and treatment under the National Health Service (NHS). If with you, your spouse and children up to the age of 16 will also be entitled to NHS treatment. You’ll pay a prescription charge for medicines prescribed by your doctor.

Students with a Visitor Visa

If your course is for less than six months, you must take out health insurance from a reputable company, to cover yourself and your dependants. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be entitled to some free medical treatment. Please check with health service staff.

Register with a doctor 

You must register with a local doctor (also known as a GP) as soon as possible after you arrive at the University; don't wait until you’re ill before you register, as this may delay you seeing a doctor. If you are living on or near to the Stoke campus, we would recommend you register with the doctor who comes onto campus to see students. If you live a little further away from the Stoke Campus, or near to one of the other campuses, you can use the NHS website to find your nearest GP. 

Please understand that registrations for the GP are very busy and after completing the form you may not be contacted for some time. This doesn't mean that you aren't registered. In the UK, you normally only contact your doctor if you need treatment so just ring on the morning you want to see them. You may need to wait on the phone but this is perfectly normal.

Following registration, you’ll receive your medical card with your National Health Service (NHS) number. It’s important that you inform the doctor’s receptionist of any change of address whilst registered with them. 

Useful links 

For more information about health and wellbeing, translated into different languages, please see: 

You can also find out about Staffordshire health and wellbeing facilities

Hospitals 

Serious accidents or illness may need to be treated at a hospital. For minor accidents, illnesses and health concerns including pregnancy, you should first see a doctor in the health centre.  

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. 

Staffordshire hospitals

Royal Stoke University Hospital 

Newcastle Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 6QG.  

Tel: 01782 674455

https://www.uhnm.nhs.uk/

County Hospital 

Weston Road, Stafford, ST16 3SA.  

Tel: 01785 230104

https://www.uhnm.nhs.uk/county-hospital/

London hospitals

Homerton University Hospital

Homerton Row, Hackney, London, E9 6SR

Tel: 020 8510 5555

https://www.homerton.nhs.uk/

Mile End Hospital

Bancroft Road, London, E1 4DG

Tel: 20 7377 7000

https://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/mile-end

Dental treatment 

Dental treatment is available at reduced rates under the NHS. You’ll need to be registered with a dentist and to qualify for NHS dental treatment, you must be registered with a doctor. There’s a charge for all dental treatment, even under the NHS. 

Make sure that the dentist you go to treats NHS patients as many only accept private (full fee paying) patients.  

For information on NHS dentists in the Staffordshire area, visit the NHS List of dentists or ring NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

If you become ill 

If you need emergency medical treatment, you must call 999. An emergency is when someone needs immediate medical help to save their life.
If you need advice or medical treatment quickly, and you cannot wait for an appointment to see your doctor, you should call 111; the NHS non-emergency number.

Non-emergency illness

If you become ill, then you’ll need to make an appointment to see the doctor as soon as possible.  The doctor will ask questions about how you feel and about your health history. It’s very important to tell the doctor if you are taking any medicines/ tablets so the doctor can give you the right medicines/ tablets. If your GP isn't open but it's not an emergency, you can go to a Walk-in Centre.

The doctor will make a diagnosis – tell you what is wrong – and how it can be treated. This might be simply 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. Some chemists are in supermarkets. 

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 or forget to take a tablet.  

Self-diagnosis 

Self-diagnosis is available at the NHS website and information is available in many languages. Alternatively, you can call NHS direct on 111. The operator will ask your name, address, telephone and your symptoms. A nurse will call you back to discuss your symptoms and will recommend what to do next – i.e. rest or go to a doctor. 

Prescription 

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’ll need to take your prescription to a chemist to receive the medicines/ tablets – this isn’t free. The cost for ONE set of medicine/ tablets is £9.35 – if you have a prescription for three different medicines/ tablets then you pay the standard fee (£9.35) three times (so the cost would be £28.05). 

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

University attendance 

If you’re very unwell and unable to attend class, then you must inform your teacher and get a sick note (the doctor will write this and give it to you). You might also want to submit an Exceptional Circumstances claim. 

Common health concerns

COVID-19

Please take a look at the University's dedicated COVID-19 webpages for the latest information on the pandemic

Adjusting to the British climate

It is common to feel lethargic, tired and even have a low mood in winter and it can be hard to adjust to a colder climate if you normally live somewhere that is warm and sunny. You should make sure you get plenty of outdoor exercise and as much natural sunlight as you can. 

Public Health England recommends everyone in the UK should take vitamin D during the winter to help stay healthy. You should do your own research to make sure that this would be suitable for you, but it might be something to consider.

Colds and flu

Particularly in winter, viral infections such as colds and flu can be 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’s not much you can do to avoid catching a cold. If you do, stay in bed until you feel better and have plenty to drink. If the symptoms get worse or you’re worried, you should make an appointment with your doctor or call 111. 

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. You can ask the doctor for a supporting statement for an Exceptional Circumstances claim if you saw them while you were ill. 

Meningitis and mumps

These are very serious illnesses, often prevalent among the student population where there are large numbers of people in close proximity. We advise you to make an appointment with a health centre 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’s treated with antibiotics from the doctor. It’s 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 severe 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 don’t disappear.  

Hayfever

Hayfever is a very common complaint in the UK. It’s an allergy to grass and hay pollens and usually occurs in Spring and Summer. Hayfever 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 about the best treatment for you. 

Sex

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

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

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are very easy to catch and pass on. They can be very dangerous and do not always have symptoms. Common STIs are Chlamydia, Syphilis, 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 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. 

Pregnancy - one of the most common consequences of having sex is getting pregnant. If you’re 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, 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 don’t want to get pregnant then you can 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’ll be able to get pregnant. 

If you have sex without contraception, there’s 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 you’re 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 can refuse to refer you if they object to abortion for moral reasons.

Culture shock

What is culture shock? 

Culture shock is a term used to describe the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. It can affect anyone and can happen if you travel abroad to work, live or study and even on holiday. 

You miss family, friends and colleagues, who would normally give you support and guidance. You may find areas of your new life very different to what you are used to such as the weather or food. It can be tiring to constantly hear and speak in a foreign language and people may speak too quickly or with a strong regional accent so that you have difficulty understanding them. 

These and other differences to your home life will contribute to your sense of culture shock. Some of the symptoms can be worrying. For example, if you find your health is affected such as getting headaches or stomach aches. You may find it difficult to concentrate or focus on your course work or find that you become more irritable or tearful. 

If you feel you need additional support, please see our Student Wellbeing pages for information and access to help. 

Common culture shock triggers

  • Differences in food
  • Language be difficult to understand.
  • Weather and Climate
  • Dress
  • Social Roles or attitudes

Sometimes something that you feel should be simple, like buying a bus ticket or making a doctor's appointment can trigger a reaction due to the diffierences in culture during the process.

How to manage culture shock 

Although culture shock is normally a temporary phase, there are things you can do to minimise the effects: Accepting that this is a normal experience may be helpful and keeping in touch with home will help. Have familiar things around you that have personal meaning such as photographs and try and find a supplier of familiar food. It may help to find someone to talk to who will listen uncritically and with understanding. 

The best way to stay healthy is to eat good food, exercise, sleep well and to spend time with others. Most British supermarkets stock foods from other countries and there are specialist shops in towns. It’s not so terrible to try English food either! Make sure you spend time out of your room. It’s very easy to become isolated when you are in a foreign country. Although you might be nervous trying something new such as joining a society or sports club – you’ll soon find that there was no need to worry! This will also help you make new friends.  

More information on student activities can be found in student life.  

Remember that culture shock is entirely normal, unavoidable and not a sign that you can't manage.

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