all you need for relocation to scotland: edinburgh

Healthcare for Permanent Residents 

practical-info.png Practical info!

Under the current Regulations, anyone who is taking up or resuming permanent residence in the UK (and therefore Scotland) is entitled to free National Health Service (NHS) medical & hospital treatment. In other words, whether you stay/live in Edinburgh or anywhere else in the UK, you’ll have the same rights to free NHS medical treatment as British nationals.

 As a rule, 6 months is seen as a reasonable period of time for a person to remain lawfully in Scotland before they can be classed as ordinarily resident.

warning-32.png Irrelevant of your nationality and your circumstances, some National Health Service (NHS) treatments* are free during your visit if you need:

  • emergency care in a hospital (in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department or in the casualty department)

  • emergency care at a General Practitioner** (GP) surgery

  • emergency transport in an ambulance

  • sexual health services

  • treatment for some infectious diseases

*NHS treatment means treatment provided by the State as opposed to private health professionals.

** General Practitioner or GP is the name given to a family doctor in the UK. GPs work in medical practices, surgeries or health centres. 

If you need other health care, NHS staff will ask you to show them some documents to help them decide if you can be treated as an NHS patient to obtain free care. 

How do I find a doctor (GP practice) where I live? 

You should register with a doctor - General Practitioner (GP) - in the area where you live as soon as possible to be added to their existing list of patients.

To find out where your nearest doctor is, the quickest way is to use NHS 24 "GP Surgeries Locator".

Under “Find your Local Services” select “Please choose”, then “GP surgeries”.  Simply enter your full postcode (e.g. EH1 1AA) and click Search. If you don’t know what your postcode is simply use the postcode finder under “Need to find your Postcode?“

How do I register with a doctor (GP practice)? 

Registering process

Once you have found a GP surgery you want to register with, simply phone them or call in person to find out whether they can accept you as a patient. If the GP surgery can take you on its list then you will be asked to make an appointment to register.

A surgery may refuse your application to join its list of patients if, for example, you do not reside in its catchment area.

NHS medical card

When new patients who reside permanently in Scotland register with their local GP, they should apply at the same time for an NHS medical card. The receptionist at the local surgery will give you a form to fill in however, you don’t need to bring the card at each appointment. 

The card contains administrative details such as your namesurgery address and your unique Community Health Index or CHI number (pronounce “kye”).

The CHI number is a unique ten-digit number created from a patient’s date of birth and four other numbers. The purpose of the CHI is to identify each person who has registered with a GP. In practice, you won’t use the CHI number yourself (don’t bother memorising it!) as it will only be used by health professionals to access your medical history.

practical-info.png Practical info!

Parents who register with a GP should also register their children at the same time so that everybody in the family can access free NHS treatments. One parent can fill in a form for the other spouse or civil partner and for any children. You may need to show your marriage or civil partnership certificate, and birth certificates for your children.

The children must be aged under 16, or under 19 and in full-time education.

Proving your intention to live permanently in the UK

If your intention is to live permanently in the UK you will be exempt from hospital charges from the date of your arrival in the country but you should expect to be asked to prove your intention and that you are legally entitled to live here. This exemption applies to your spouse, civil partner and children (under the age of 16, or 19 if in further education).

There are many ways of proving your intention to live legally and permanently in Scotland (and the UK):

  • Contract of Employment/Letter from Employer

  • Letters from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) confirming details of a person's right to stay in the UK:

– letter confirming that a person has permanent leave to remain

– letter of temporary admission (IS96) for Asylum Seekers

– an Application Registration Card (ARC)

– a Standard Acknowledgement Letter (SAL). In some circumstances, it may not be possible to provide an ARC in which cases UKBA will give the applicant a Standard Acknowledgement Letter. The letter will say you have made an application for asylum and can be used in the same way as an ARC.

  • Visas/Permit

  • Marriage/Birth Certificates

  • Passport

  • Proof of UK residence

  • Student ID/Letter from Education Facility

  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Non-EEA and non-Swiss nationals

Any person, who is not a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national, wishing to take up permanent residence in Scotland must, if they do not fulfil an exemption category, either have a "no time limit" stamp in their passport or a letter from the UK Border Agency confirming that permanent leave to enter/remain has been granted.

This means that you have gone through the appropriate immigration procedures with the intention of becoming lawfully and permanently resident in Scotland.  As a rule, 6 months is seen as a reasonable period of time for a person to remain lawfully in Scotland before they can be classed as ordinarily resident.

practical-info.png Practical info!

The EEA (European Economic Area) is identical to the EU (European Union) with the exception of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway which are NOT part of the EU.

EEA member states are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus (southern), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.

Patients list

GP practices have a list of patients. If you apply to register as a new patient, you are added to this list.

If practices are so busy that they can't take on any new patients, they may formally close their list and refuse any new patients. This is called a closed list. You then need to try another GP surgery in the area where you live.

First doctor appointment

You should bring the following documents at your first doctor (GP) appointment:

  • a proof of identity (passport, identity card, driving licence)

  • a proof of current address (e.g. bank statement, council tax, gas/electricity bill, etc)

  • your EHIC card if you are from the EEA or Switzerland

Citizen from EEA member states must show a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The purpose of the EHIC card is to allow EU nationals to obtain the same level of basic healthcare as a local resident in a member country when travelling. The card is valid for 5 years however, each family member will need their own separate card. 

Since 1 January 2006, E111 forms are no longer valid and have been replaced with EHIC. You can obtain the card in your country of origin. 

If you are a EEA or Swiss student you need to bring a letter from your university or college in Scotland which confirms that you have a place on a course, when the course starts and how long it lasts for.

Waiting times

Information Services Division (ISD) is a branch of the NHS in Scotland and which provides the latest Scottish health information, including waiting times.

“The latest national waiting time [2007] guarantees: "a whole journey waiting time target of 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to December 2011".. (source ISD website).

In other words, the 18 weeks waiting time begins with the patient’s referral for treatment by the GP and ends when the patient receives the first treatment for their disease, condition or injury. Depending on the nature of the illness, patients will be seen more or less rapidly within these 18 weeks.

What is not taken into account here is how long it takes to see the GP in the first place and then how long it takes to the GP to make the referral.

warning-32.png The percentage of patients attending Accidents & Emergency departments across Scotland who were seen within 4 hours was 95.6 % in March 2011.   

practical-info.png Practical info

If you are not confident about your English, you can receive assistance from an interpreter. There are information leaflets in different languages posted on the walls of each surgery which tell you, in your language, what to do if you need help.

If you reside permanently in Scotland, you can get a FREE NHS eye examination. This is more than just an eye test, It is a comprehensive examination of the health of your eyes. You can make an appointment with any optometrist in Scotland who provides NHS services, for instance Boots, Specsavers, Optical Express.

GPs may also accept patients on a private, paying basis. Simply ask the surgery.

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