The National Health Service (NHS) is a system of publicly funded health system that provides health care for the public through a network of General Practitioners and National Health Trusts. Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service. It is also one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive.



The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth, a principle that remains at its core. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS remains free at the point of use for anyone who is resident in the UK. That is currently more than 63.2m people. It covers everything from antenatal screening and routine treatments for long-term conditions, to transplants, emergency treatment, and end-of-life care. The service is mainly funded from general taxation (with a much smaller amount from National Insurance contributions). Other, less significant sources of income include charging overseas visitors and their insurers for the cost of NHS treatment, charges to patients for prescriptions and dental treatment, hospital car parking, patient telephone services, etc.



Treatment of people not resident in the United Kingdom is subject to mostly uniform arrangements made by or delegated to the UK Department of Health rather than any individual health service. Foreign nationals always receive treatment free at the time of use for emergencies. Foreign nationals also receive free treatment if they have been legally resident in the UK for 12 months, have recently arrived to take up permanent residence, are claiming asylum or have other legal resident status. Citizens of European Economic Area nations, as well as those from countries with which the UK has a reciprocal arrangements, are also entitled to free treatment by using the European Health Insurance Card. Foreign nationals may be subject to an interview to establish their nationality and residence status, which must be resolved before non-emergency treatment can commence. Patients who do not qualify for free treatment are asked to pay in advance, or to sign a written undertaking to pay.



Nigerians visiting or studying in the UK are not entitled to free services under the NHS and must pay for any treatment undertaken.