Healthcare in Edinburgh

How to find a General Practitioner, doctor, physician in Edinburgh

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The Healthcare System

Healthcare in Scotland is mainly provided by NHS Scotland, Scotland's public health care system. Created at the same time as for England and Wales, it is actually a separate service (although emergency care will be recognized when "cross-border").

Primary and secondary care are integrated in Scotland, unlike in England. Care is provided through fourteen regional health boards. These boards are further subdivided into Community Health Partnerships.

Despite the extensive public health care, many people rely on auxiliary private medical treatment. This is because of the long wait times for even standard procedures.

General Practitioner/Doctor

The system works by General Practitioners (GPs) providing primary health care. If a patient needs further evaluation, they are referred to a specialist. Hospitals provide more specialist services, including care for patients with psychiatric illnesses. Hospitals also provide access to Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments.

To go to a doctor under the national plan, you should register with a local General Practitioner. NHS's website offers listings of local doctors. Asking friends, colleagues or neighbors for recommendations is always a good idea. Choose the GP practice you would like to go to and check that the practice covers where you live.

    To register:
  1. Contact the GP practice and ask to register with them.
  2. They will ask you to complete a form called a GMS1, giving details such as: your name and address, date of birth, NHS number (if you know it).
  3. Some GP practices also want proof of your identity, for example: photo identity (passport or driving licence), proof of address (recent utility bill)
  4. The GP practice will send the GMS1 to the local Primary Care Trust (PCT)
  5. The PCT will write to you confirm that you're registered with the GP practice.
  6. Your medical records will be transferred to the new practice.

To see the doctor you are usually required to make an appointment. Many GPs also operate open surgery hours (when you can see the doctor without an appointment), which are typically from 9:00 to 11:00 on weekday mornings.

NHS Medical Cards

A NHS medical card or NHS number isn't strictly necessary to register with a GP or to get NHS treatment, but some GPs will send you a new NHS medical card.


To go to a doctor under the national plan, you should register with a local NHS board. They will offer a list of local dentists who provide NHS treatment or you can visit them online at

    If a dentist agrees to accept you as an NHS patient, they will:
  • ask for some information about you, for example your name and address
  • ask you to sign a form to register
  • arrange for you to have a dental check-up

The quality of NHS dentistry can be lower than that of private dentistry. Regulations by the government have imposed cost and time restrictions to a negative effect. Unlike doctors, dentists are under no obligation to treat anyone, even in an emergency.

There is a standard NHS charge for dental check-ups (usually less than 10 GBP). People under 16, pensioners, pregnant woman, people on permanent disability, low-income, and students under 19 are entitled to free treatment. A guide to health costs is available from any citizens advice bureau and Jobcentre Plus office. You can also get it online at

Recommendations from friends, colleagues and neighbours is the best way to find a dentist. Listings can also be found under "Dental Surgeons" in the Yellow Pages or through Edinburgh Directory.

Update 8/04/2011


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About the refund of medical expenses
The letter received from the Overseas Healthcare Team says:
"Your expenses will be reimbursed according to the rules and rates of he country in which you received treatment. As a result, please note that it is unlikely you will receive a full reimbursement. The average response time from EEA countries is approximatively 4 months."

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