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Travelling to the UK from overseas

Hello everyone, my name is Gustavo. I am new to the community so this is my first post, and it's actually a question. I hope you can help me with this.

I live in Mexico, in September I will be starting a 1 year postgraduate course in a HE institution in the UK. I was diagnosed with RA earlier this year, and I'm currently taking Leflunomide (20 mg) and Hydroxychloroquine (200 mg), one of each a day. I have several concerns since I am not familiar with the health system in the UK. My main concerns are:

Do you know if I can buy those two medicines at any pharmacy in the UK? (Are these controlled drugs in the UK? Would I need a prescription?)

Would I need to get examined by a doctor in the UK in order to get a prescription and, hence, buy my medication?

Who should I ask how much medication can I bring with me when first arriving in the UK? (Would I need to declare it when passing through customs?)

I am in contact with the international students support group in my university, but I though I may ask someone else for a quicker response.

I read on a similar post that it is recomended I bring a letter from my doctor stating my condition and the medicines I need. I also know I should get quarterly check-ups to make sure everything is ok, I can contact the NHS for that, right?

Thank you for your attention.


Gustavo Medina Vazquez

9 Replies

I'm not sure about foreign students but I would have thought a letter from your doctor in Mexico wouldn't go amiss. Certainly the first thing you should do would be to contact the health centre on campus. I would probably do that before you come and see what information they would require. You can usually find them through the HE web site



Hello, and welcome.

Because Mexico is not in the European Union it will be more complicated for you, so you will need to plan ahead as you will not have an automatic entitlement to access the national health service here, and going privately will be expensive. The rules changed this year, so I don't know the exact details, but there is now a annual charge for people visiting the UK from outside the EU. I think that the procedure is included as part of the visa application, so you could also check that at your end and make sure it is included with your visa.

Once you have that card, you can register with a general doctor. You will need to do that as you can't buy medicines from a chemist here without a prescription. It will also help if you have a letter from your specialist - preferably translated into English - with details of your diagnosis, treatment and so on. Recent blood test results also helpful. It will be up to the doctor to decide whether to issue you with the prescription so do bring as much evidence of your medical history as you can.

However, for check ups you will need to get the general doctor to refer you to a specialist - and there can be a long wait for that, often 3 months or more.

You can bring medicines with you, and you don't have to declare them as long as you have a letter that they are for your use. So I would bring as much as you can! And at least a three month supply, if not 6 months.

Hope that helps.


Thank you for your advice. I will make sure to ask my doctor for that letter.

I had also written to the home office to ask about bringing in medication and today they replied that these are non-controlled drug medicines, so I can bring in as much as I can, just like you mentioned.

And yes, with my visa application I am required to pay the NHS surcharge for the time of my stay, so I think I will be able to register with a doctor in the NHS for check-ups; I will have to take into account the waiting time, though.


The University of Sussex has a health centre for students, but their website doesn't seem to recognise the rule change about now accepting non-EU patients into the national health service. But you could always contact them in advance to check

However, since RA is not that common in young people, you might do just as well to register with a GP outside the campus. In the UK GPs can choose whether or not to accept patients, and generally only take patients who live nearby, so it depends where you will be staying.

If you have health insurance then continuing cover while you were here could be helpful for speedy access to a specialist.

And humidity, dampness and cold makes no difference to my RA at all. In fact I hate too much dry heat! But you might find the UK seaside in winter a bit of a shock generally if you're not used to it. bring waterproof clothes... And enjoy yourself.


There is an advice organisation in the UK called 'Citizens Advice'. I found this on their website, it suggests that students from abroad who are here for longer than 6 months will be entitled to free hospital treatment, even if they are from outside the European Union and from a country that does not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, which Mexico does not:

I agree with helixhelix that your visa application should provide some answers to your questions at least. Or is that something you've done already? I am sure that the international students support group will give you great advice as we get many international students here.

The drugs you take are very standard treatment for RA in the UK. So hopefully that will help things go smoothly.

Sounds exciting! British weather less so! Where will you be studying?


Only free if you've paid the surcharge with your visa.

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Hi Gustavo

I would think that you may also need to be referred to a rheumatologist as I would have thought the the drugs you are on are out of a general practitioners remit.

Hope you have a great time in the IK. Where are you studying?


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Good advice so far. In addition though I think you'd be well advised to tell your tutor / supervisor that you have RA as you may suffer from tiredness or the occasional flare. I used to supervise post docs at uni and it helps to be able to anticipate problems well in advance. I wonder which uni you're going to ?

Hope you enjoy your studies here

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Thank you all for your advice. For now I know I can bring in my medicines with me. As I get a refund from my health insurance company in my country I will try to stock-up on these before I leave, and for a letter from my doctor.

I will be studying at University of Sussex, near Brighton. I am not really sure how being near the sea will affect my condition (the humidity :/ ), but I'd like to keep positive about it. I have been pretty ok so far, I haven't had any pain since I started my treatment this year (4 months so far) and I excercise regularly without problems, so I hope I continue the same.

Thank you for your support!


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