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Visiting or moving to the UK with type 1 diabetes

If you’re moving to the UK, understanding a new health system as well as everything else that comes with moving to a new country is a challenge.
Content last reviewed and updated: 18.10.2023

Airport signage at a UK airport

Moving to the UK

The Immigration Health Surcharge

If you’re immigrating to the UK, you may have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a fee you pay when you make your visa application. Once you’ve paid it, you can access NHS hospital services free of charge. Find out more on the UK government website.

You can also check if you need to pay towards your healthcare in the UK.

There is an immigration health surcharge calculator to help you work out how much you will need to pay.

Registering with a GP

Everyone who is eligible for NHS treatment (whether they have to pay IHS or not) needs to be registered with a local General Practitioner (GP). In the UK, GPs are part of primary care. If you are a student, your school, college or university should help you register with a GP.

GPs can issue prescriptions for blood glucose test strips, insulin, glucagon and ketone test strips, and some continuous glucose monitors (CGM).

A GP can also refer you to an NHS diabetes specialist service (considered a hospital/secondary care service).


If you settle in England as an adult (aged 18 or over) ask for a medical exemption certificate when you register with a GP. This means that you won’t pay the prescription charge for anything a doctor prescribes.

If any other adults in your household need ongoing medication but don’t have one of the conditions listed on the exemption list, they can take out a prescription pre-payment certificate.

If you settle in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, there are no prescription charges for anyone.

Children and prescription charges

There are no prescription charges for children.

Getting an appointment for insulin pump support

GPs cannot arrange funding for insulin pumps or insulin pump supplies – these must be handled at the hospital level (known in the UK as secondary care).

If you use a pump, ask your GP to refer you to a diabetes specialist centre that provides insulin pump therapy.

Bring a letter from your diabetes clinic in your home country that explains why you were initially put on a pump and how it is helping you.

Bringing enough supplies with you

It can take a few weeks to confirm your registration at the GPs, and a couple of months to get a referral to your Diabetes Care Team at the hospital. Make sure you bring enough supplies for your type 1 management to cover you during this time.

If you use a pump, you may want to consider bringing long-acting insulin with you in case anything happens with your pump before your first appointment.

Stays under six months

If you are coming to the UK to visit for less than six months, you will not be eligible for free NHS treatment during your stay. Bring all medical supplies with you that you expect to need and get travel insurance that will cover medical expenses.

Be prepared with funds to pay upfront for doctors’ appointments if you need medical treatment while you are in the UK.

Coming to the UK to study

If you are a student requiring a visa, you’ll fit into one of these subcategories:

  • Course or programme lasts under six months (Short-term student visa). You will not be eligible for free NHS treatment. See above for how to manage your type 1 care for stays under six months
  • Course or programme lasts six months or more (Student immigration: the basics). You will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. See above for more information.

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