Northern Ireland provides free medical care and hospital services through the National Health Service for all people employed or “ordinarily resident” in the United Kingdom. Some NHS treatments have to be paid for (such as dental and optical), although help is available if you are not able to pay. Private medical and dental care is also available, as is private health insurance.
If you cannot pay for NHS treatment, urgent treatment will still be carried out on the NHS, but you will have to return home for continued treatment. If the need is not urgent, NHS treatment may be offered, but not for free. Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. If you are entitled to it, you can obtain free treatment immediately. There is no qualifying period.
Some hospital treatment is free of charge for everyone who needs it, regardless of how long they have been or intend to stay in the UK. This includes:
-treatment for accidents and emergencies as an outpatient in a hospital’s accident and emergency department. However, if you are referred to an outpatient clinic or admitted to hospital from an accident and emergency department, you will be charged.
-compulsory psychiatric treatment
-treatment for certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, malaria and meningitis. Testing for the HIV virus and counseling following a test are both free of charge, but any necessary subsequent treatment and medicines may have to be paid for.
-family planning services
You are eligible for free NHS hospital treatment if you:
1. have been living legally in the UK for at least 12 months when you seek treatment, and did not come to the UK for private medical treatment. Temporary absences from the UK of up to three months are ignored
2. have come to the UK to take up permanent residence, or if you have been granted leave to enter or remain as a spouse
3. have come to the UK to work, either as an employee or self-employed person. This does not include people on short business trips
4. are a student following a course of study which lasts at least six months or is substantially funded by the UK government.
Private health insurance is not required, but you may find it worthwhile in order to escape some of the weaknesses of the NHS, such as long waiting lists for special treatment by doctors or in hospitals. You will also be entitled to better quality service. Some of the leading private insurance providers are listed below.
BUPA is the largest independent health care organization in the UK with around three million customers. BUPA make every effort to ensure that their members receive high standards of medical treatment and have access to some of the most up to date medical facilities. Although BUPA is the best know UK health insurance provider their real strength is in the group market; BUPA is seldom recommended for individual and family coverage.
AXA PPP Healthcare
AXA PPP Healthcare has been around even longer than the National Health Service – over 60-years. AXA PPP Healthcare has approximately 2 million UK members. Second only to BUPA in terms of size, they offer a wide range of quality Private Medical Insurance products for individuals and companies.
Norwich Union Healthcare
Norwich Union Healthcare (NUHC) is part of the UK’s largest insurance group. Norwich Union offers a health insurance policy called Signature, designed specifically for the Scottish and Northern Irish markets. The Signature health insurance policy is very competitively priced for such a comprehensive policy.
Standard Life Healthcare
Standard Life Healthcare offer high quality, comprehensive medical insurance that can cut lengthy waits and put you in charge of where, when and by whom you are treated. Standard Life Healthcare medical insurance offers a choice of hospitals, choice of specialists, private accommodation, flexible visiting times, and no lengthy waits.
SecureHealth Ltd was originally founded in 1996 by a group of businessmen who had all been extremely successful in private medical insurance sales. They shared a vision to build a company which would offer the public the most competitive plans in the marketplace, at the lowest cost. Ten years later, SecureHealth is a major force in the marketplace, and one of the major success stories in the field of private medical insurance in recent years. In April 2006, SecureHealth became part of the AXA group of insurance businesses, which includes other leading healthcare brands including AXA PPP Healthcare and Denplan. The SecureHealth mission remains the same: a dedication to providing the best schemes at the lowest prices. SecureHealth is regularly voted “best buy” in a number of surveys because they create attractive health insurance policies that customers want, rather than policies that some insurance companies want you to have.
BCWA has a policy for the individual / family market called ‘Personal Health’ that offers excellent value for money with a menu approach to choosing the benefits you feel you may need.