Everything you need to know about the health care system for French people living in the UK

For French people living in the UK or thinking about it, the options available regarding healthcare and health insurance can sometimes seem unclear. In this article we are going to look into how the public and the private systems work in the UK.

The British National Health System

The United Kingdom has a universal and free health system which allows residents to benefit from free care at the point of use. It is mostly financed by taxes. However, the services are only free if you use the NHS (public) services. Non-residents may have to claim the costs back from their health care insurer. The NHS is partially devolved, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making their own decisions about health services. The government grants these regions funding, which allows them to make decisions related to their own healthcare systems.

How does the NHS work?

To be able to access the British National Health System, you must be registered with a GP (General Practitioner), the doctor at your local surgery.

For any health issues, you must first consult the general practitioner (GP) who will then, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. Specialist consultations will only be free of charge if you are referred by a General Practitioner.

In the event of an emergency requiring hospitalization, in the majority of cases your care will be covered. For certain services, a contribution may be requested from the patient. You will have to pay for dental and ophthalmic services. These are almost never covered by the NHS unless you are in receipt of certain benefits or under 18. Prices can sometimes be very high.

For NHS appointments, it can take up to four to six months to get a booking with a physiotherapist, for example. Moreover, in England the consultation time with a GP is often limited to 15 minutes.

If you can’t or don’t want to wait too long, you may have to go through the private system, which could be much more expensive.

The private system in the UK

The public system in England is often overcrowded and if you don’t want to wait you can choose to go through the private healthcare system. French people residing in the UK tend to select this option because it’s faster and the quality of service is supposed to be better. Doctors who are not affiliated with the NHS set their own prices. There are several advantages to going through the private healthcare system in England.

Going privately will give you some reassurance as appointments can be booked much more rapidly: you should get an appointment as soon as the symptoms appear.

Consultations are also much longer, which should allow you to get an answer to all of your queries in one consultation. Seeing a doctor outside the NHS can be very expensive, especially, however, if you don’t have health insurance, so this is an important point to consider.

cute mother and daughter playing together, reading first book

How do you choose your private insurance?

First of all, it is important to look at what’s covered by the health insurance contract. It must at least cover your current and any emergency health costs and expenses. You can then look into the various options on offer. In both the private sector and the public sector, you can choose which General Practitioner to consult.

You will also have access to various services such as medical repatriation and on line appointments etc which can make life easier. Additional options with private insurance will offer to cover you for private opticians, dental care or maternity expenses.

Healthcare costs in the UK

On average, a visit to a private GP in the UK costs £150 compared to €25 (£22) in France. A birth in a private facility will cost around £12,500 in the UK compared to just €2,400 (£2,111) in France.

Prescription drugs have a fixed annual lump sum price if you need to take them regularly. Some drugs will be covered by the NHS while others are not. Fees may have to be charged if you have not taken out private health insurance.


Santexpat.fr offers a health insurance comparator including full repayment or in addition to another health cover like the CFE (Caisse des Francais à l’Etranger). Based on 3 criteria – age, family situation and health costs in your country of expatriation – their algorithm will select the solutions best suited to your needs from a panel of more than 300 insurance offers from 20 partner insurance companies.

In addition, Santexpat.fr offers to simplify your healthcare requirements abroad by offering a range of services such as on line doctor’s appointments or a service exclusive to the UK.