Most healthcare services in the UK are provided by the government-run National Health Service (NHS). However, you'll find many private insurers and providers who augment care.
Through the NHS, you get free emergency treatment regardless of whether you pay UK taxes, make national insurance contributions, are registered with a physician, have an NHS number, or own property in the UK. If a General Practitioner (GP) refers you to specialized services or tests, however, you may be liable for payment. (Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, and the EU are example from these healthcare payments. Time will tell what impact the Brexit has on EU exemption.) Dental and Optometrist services do have out-of-pocket costs, though they're modest.
Once you get settled in London you should look for a GP practice you like and register with that practice by completing this form (http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Documents/GMS1-Jul12.pdf) and turning it in at your chosen practice.
Patients do pay for prescription medication, although the UK has capped costs at £8.40 per item. The NHS offers programs for people who require more than three prescription items per month. Additionally, people over 60 or under 16, full-time students aged 16-18, women who are pregnant or had a child in the previous 12 months, and people with certain medical conditions or physical disability qualify for free NHS prescriptions. All cancer patients also receive free prescriptions.
Getting an appointment with a GP typically doesn’t take more than a few days, but waiting times for non-emergency treatment can vary. The current NHS guarantee is that it will take no longer than 18 weeks to see someone.
PRIVATE HEALTHCARE OPTIONS IN THE UK
The main benefits of having private insurance are not having to wait for treatment and the ability to choose the hospital where you receive treatment. Waiting 18 weeks for treatment, let alone a few weeks, is just too long for some people. You can tailor your insurance coverage based on your needs and budget: what specialist fees you'd like included, which types of hospitals you want to be able to visit, and whether you want additional benefits like Dental cover.
For an individual, coverage can be as low as £14/month for very basic insurance and go up to hundreds of pounds for gold-plated insurance. Because the NHS provides free healthcare to UK residents, most employers do not pay for private insurance for their employees.
HELPFUL HEALTHCARE RESOURCES
Tips from experts on getting health insurance while overseas.
Doctify - Doctify enables you to find a private doctor by location and specialty and read reviews from other patients.
NHS Choices - This NHS site lets you search for GP services in your neighborhood and see patient ratings, the number of patients served by the facility, and other characteristics.
GoCompare Health Insurance - This site lets you compare quotes from different private health insurers.