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Accessing Healthcare Whilst at University - Part 1

By Jenna Colaco

When you’re a student, it can be hard to figure out accessing your own healthcare and the costs associated with it all. For the first time, you may be responsible for paying for your own prescriptions or footing the bill for your new pair of glasses. It is important to know how to set yourself up when you move to a new place, so you always have access to healthcare when you need it.

Being a student can mean that you do not always live at just one address. At Oxford, it is common for many students to return to their family homes during the vacations while their colleges rent out their rooms. If this is not something you want to do, colleges can grant you permission to stay during the vacations too. However, for those returning to a different city or town for a few weeks, this could cause an issue when accessing healthcare.

In England, you can only be registered with one GP at a time. For most Oxford students, their GP is one in Oxford who has links with their college. I was recommended a GP in Oxford close to my college by my JCR (Junior Common Room) before I arrived in Oxford for Fresher’s Week. I filled in forms online to transfer my GP to Oxford before I arrived. You can also do this after you arrive. However, this became a problem when I returned to visit my family for the vacations because when I needed a doctor’s appointment, I was registered in Oxford and not at my local GP surgery in London.

There are ways to access GPs and medical advice if you are away from your own GP surgery. Firstly, you could register as a temporary patient at a GP close to the area you are visiting; this may only be valid for a few weeks so it is best to check with the practice how long you can be registered with them temporarily. If you need to see a doctor immediately, but it is not an A&E problem, there are NHS Urgent Healthcare Centres in some areas which take walk-in appointments. Here, you can be seen by doctors and given medication and treatment if needed. I have used these services before and found it so useful when I couldn’t travel back to Oxford whilst in lockdown in London.

Even away from university, you can call your GP for a telephone consultation and email them for repeat prescriptions. If you are away from Oxford, GP surgeries can send your prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy near you, so you can access your medicines even away from university.

You can call the NHS for medical advice 24/7 by dialling “111”. This service is also available online, if you don’t want to call anyone. They can arrange for a doctor to speak to you over the phone as well as help find you somewhere to get treatment if you need it. The NHS also have a mental health service which you can access by calling the same number.

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