NHS Ambulance responding to medical emergency
HealthplanWhat is the NHS, and What does it do?

What is the NHS, and What does it do?

In 1948, the NHS was founded as a healthcare system for all citizens of the United Kingdom. Today, it is one of the largest healthcare organisations globally, providing free or low-cost care to over 1 million people every 36 hours.

The NHS offers a wide range of services, from primary care to specialised treatments. This blog post will explore what the NHS is and what it does. We will also discuss how to register for services and what to expect when using them.

What is the NHS? Meaning & What it stands for

The National Health Service (NHS) is a publicly funded healthcare system in the United Kingdom, offering essential services to everyone normally resident in the UK. The NHS provides physical and mental health care for all and is open to visitors from overseas.

The NHS was created by a government act in 1948 after World War II ended. It was set up to provide medical treatment free at the point of delivery for everyone in the UK. The aim was to provide better care throughout the country by improving facilities and creating teams of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who care for all types of medical conditions.

Role of the NHS

Today, the NHS plays a dominant role in UK society and economy within healthcare provision, employing around 1.5 million staff, making it one of the largest employers in Europe. The NHS itself is funded by taxpayer money through general taxation and National Insurance contributions.

NHS hospitals are located all over the country and offer treatments including cancer care, emergency treatment and operations. The doctors can be contacted through NHS 111, who provide information about services.

How does the NHS work in the uk?

The NHS has a decentralised model and is made up of various local and regional healthcare organisations. It manages these organisations, which operate independently but must follow certain standards and guidelines.

Each organisation provides services to a particular region or group of people, such as young children or those living with a specific disease. These organisations are responsible for everything from designing services to overseeing how NHS resources are used and allocated, to recruiting staff, doctors and health care professionals.

What services does the NHS provide?

The NHS is available to everyone who lives or works in the UK. People can go to their local GP surgery for an appointment without making a referral from another healthcare professional.

Services include:

General practitioners

A General Practitioner is a qualified doctor who treats most health problems in the UK. They’re usually your first point of call when you need medical advice or treatment and are often called Family Doctors. Before you choose a GP, it is essential to visit their office and research their qualifications.

GP appointments can be difficult to book in advance and may mean long waiting times if you’re ill and need immediate care.


A hospital consultant provides people with an opportunity to talk about their health and to receive professional advice and treatment. Studies have reported that they found the consultations highly valuable for properly diagnosing the patient’s condition.

In all cases, NHS consultants will ask patients a series of questions about their symptoms and medical history. NHS staff use the information provided by the patient to identify what is wrong with them, what services may be able to help and if referrals are required.


This includes various treatments to help patients maintain their oral health, including general examinations, teeth cleaning and filling of cavities. Services provided by dentists are worth the money spent on them because they provide excellent preventive care for patients.


NHS Hospitals provide a range of services that can help those ill or who have been injured to get better. Many people choose the NHS because it provides the most appropriate help at the local level to individuals who are ill or have suffered an injury, saving them from travelling to a large specialist hospital to receive urgent treatment.

However, the NHS provides limited space and time for people to recover from illnesses and injuries as there is a constant demand for emergency services.


Pharmacy services by the NHS are excellent services that provide many people with medication requirements. Pharmacists provide prescriptions for over the counter medicines, advice on how to take medications properly, and information about which drugs can be used together.

Pregnancy services

Pregnancy services by the NHS provide help to women who are thinking about getting pregnant, are pregnant, or have recently had a baby. They provide excellent advice and support on contraception, screening for certain pregnancy complications, general health care during pregnancy, and the emotional aspects of having a baby.

Mental health services

The NHS provides free essential support for people suffering from mental health problems. It provides counselling, care and treatment to individuals’ most vulnerable and distressing periods in their lives. However, some services may require a GP’s referral.

Home care and care homes

The NHS provides these services for the elderly, disabled people, or those having difficulty moving around. They help with daily tasks such as washing, cooking and dressing. Home help provides care in the person’s own home, but they can also provide support in residential homes or nursing homes if necessary.

Maternity services

Maternity services provide a wide range of care for women during and after birth. The service is offered free of charge by NHS maternity units which provide labour-related services, while midwives provide antenatal and postnatal care to new mothers.

Will I be covered by the NHS?

The NHS is free at the point of use for all UK citizens, excluding specific costs such as prescriptions, vision treatments, and dental treatment. Those who come to the UK on a temporary work visa (Tier 5 Youth Mobility, Tier 2 General, or Tier 1 General) are entitled to free medical care through the NHS.

You will have paid an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) on your work visa, which provides you accessibility to the NHS. You may start accessing the NHS after you’ve completed the IHS or your visa or immigration application has been approved, per the British government.

When seeking healthcare in the United Kingdom, you should carry your biometric residence permit.

How do I register with the NHS?

For registration, you will be required to visit the nearest GP and fill out a Family Doctor Registration Services form. A nearby GP can be found by entering your area’s postal code on the NHS website.

Can I register with more than one gp?

No, you can not register with more than one GP. All proceeding appointments may also have different GPs, and if you want to see the same doctor, a request can be made for the same.

Do I need private health insurance if there is the NHS?

Although the NHS is a health care system that is free at the point of delivery, studies have shown that it still offers a relatively poor service in many areas; particularly in that waiting times can be up to 62 days.

In recent years the expectations of private health insurance have improved considerably, with many insurers now ensuring that their customers enjoy a fast track system when it comes to being seen by consultants and having operations carried out.

This means that, although you still have access to free care under the NHS if you are referred by your GP, in most cases, you can also choose to be seen by a private consultant and have any necessary procedures done in private hospitals with little or no waiting time.

This may still provide some financial advantages even when compared to health insurance, which is why many people purchase a policy.


The National Health Service is the public health care system in the UK. It provides free or subsidised healthcare to all people living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of the disadvantages is the long waiting lines for appointments, in which case private health insurance can be opted for.

In the end, the decision as to whether you should buy a private health insurance policy or rely on NHS care will also depend on other factors such as financial suitability and ease of access.