Everyone is entitled to the highest possible standard of physical and mental health. As such, we have the right to access good quality health services.

National Health Service Scotland (NHS)

In Scotland healthcare is provided by the NHS – a publicly funded healthcare system. You have rights and responsibilities when using the NHS under the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011.

In Scotland, everyone has the legal right to receive healthcare that:

  • Meets their needs.
  • Prioritises their health and wellbeing.
  • Provides information and support to patients so they can take part in decisions about their care.

The care offered by the NHS will never be impacted based on any protected characteristics e.g., age, race, gender.

Most NHS Scotland (NHSS) services are provided free of charge however, there are some services which cost e.g., dental treatment and eye treatment. Follow this link for information on how you could be assisted with these costs https://www.nhsinform.scot/care-support-and-rights/health-rights/access/help-with-health-costs.

Everyone is entitled to register with a General Practice (GP). This is the primary contact for medical services. NHS 24 can help with medical queries when GP’s and Dentists are closed and you are too unwell to wait until they are open. NHS 24 can be accessed by dialling 111 on the phone.

Access to Healthcare

European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

EU, EEA or Swiss citizens living in Scotland on the 31st of December 2020 can continue to use NHSS services. NHSS does not share details of patients with the Home Office.

Anyone in Scotland can register with a GP and are entitled to receive general medical treatment and prescriptions free of charge.

You should always seek NHS treatment if you need it. You will not be asked by any member of NHSS staff to provide evidence of you settled or pre-settled status.

If you are eligible for settlement in the UK but are yet to apply to the EUSS, the NHSS will not pursue treatment charges for hospital or specialist treatment. Those that have not and will not apply to the EUSS may not have a legal right to remain in the UK, in which case the NHSS may charge for future specialist treatments.

If you are entitled to apply to the EUSS, but you haven’t done this yet, get in touch with us. We can help you.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Asylum Seekers:

  • Asylum seekers can receive health care from the NHS if; their application for asylum is still being considered, they are appealing a refused asylum application or their application has been refused and they are waiting for the Home Office to make arrangements for them to get home.
  • Those who have been granted asylum will receive health care if they have been; granted humanitarian protection, granted discretionary leave to stay in the UK or given the right to stay in the UK as a refugee.
  • When you register as an NHS patient you may be asked to show your Application Registration Card (ARC) (you may have been given this at your asylum screening interview) or documents from the UK Border Agency stating that you have applied for asylum.


  • If you have been granted the right to stay in the UK as a refugee you will receive health care through the NHS.
  • When you register as an NHS patient you may be asked to show your passport, travel documents or Biometric Residence Permit or a letter from the Home Office stating you are allowed to stay in the UK.
  • After you have registered as an NHS patient most of your NHS health care will be free. You may have to pay for some things like dental and eye care.

Family Members:

  • If you are registered as an NHS patient your wife/husband/civil partner and any of your children living in Scotland with you, can also get health care from the NHS. Children must be aged 16 or under, or under 19 and in full-time education. You may need to show your marriage or civil partnership certificate or birth certificates for your children.

To receive healthcare from the NHS you must find a family doctor (GP) as soon as possible after you arrive in Scotland and request that they register you as an NHS patient. You will not have to pay for this. You may have to try more than one GP in your area until you find one with enough space on their patient list to register you.

If you need assistance finding a GP that can register you, you can phone the NHS inform Helpline on 0800 22 44 88 or follow the link www.nhs24.scot. The NHS helpline provides a free interpreting service.

What if I am not a registered NHS patient?

You can still receive some health care from the NHS if you are not registered as an NHS patient. Services that are free for everyone include:

  • Emergency care in a hospital (accident & emergency, minor injuries unit or casualty department)
  • Emergency care at a GP
  • Emergency transport in an ambulance
  • Sexual health services (family planning)
  • Treatment of some infectious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases

Accessing an Interpreter for Healthcare  

It is the responsibility of your care provider to ensure you have an interpreter so you can access healthcare. This is a free and confidential service.   

NHS-24 – You can still access the non-emergency health line NHS-24 if you need an interpreter. To do this dial 111 into your phone, press 9 when you hear the recorded message (if you would like to listen to the message in other languages press 1). You will be given the option to select your preferred language out of Polish, Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, Romanian, Sorani or Ukranian. There will also be an option for any other language. The NHS operator will arrange for an interpreter to join a three-way call with you.  

GP and Hospital AppointmentsTo access an interpreter for GP or hospital appointments visit your local health service website. If you contact reception staff at the GP or hospital you are attending, they will provide an interpreter for your appointment.  

Emergencies – An interpreter will be provided when you call the emergency services on 999.  

Additional Resources

NHS – https://www.nhsinform.scot/care-support-and-rights/health-rights

Scottish Government – https://www.gov.scot/publications/charter-patient-rights-responsibilities-easy-read/pages/1/

NHS Refugees and Asylum Seekers – https://www.nhsinform.scot/media/1126/health-care-for-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-in-scotland-v6-2016-206.pdf

Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS)- at your local citizen’s advice bureau (find your nearest bureau on the internet at www.cas.org.uk or in your local phone book). PASS is independent and provides free, confidential information, advice and support to anyone who uses the NHS in Scotland.

This information was updated on 19th May 2022.