Being part of the United Kingdom allows residents in Northern Ireland to have access to the National Health Service. This service provides free healthcare to all EU citizens, for most conditions. Registering with a local doctor is simple as long as you bring your European Health Insurance Card - EHIC, this card will provide you with full access to local support or attention for more serious problems at one of the Accident and Emergency department at many hospitals in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland.
Non Emergency Medical and Dental Treatment
Doctors treating their local community usually work in surgeries, health clinics or health centres (practices) as part of a team which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, managers, receptionists and other staff. Practices also work closely with other healthcare professionals such as health visitors, midwives, and social services. You should register with a local practice so that if you have a medical concern you can easily arrange to see a doctor or nurse. Depending on the appointments system that operates in your practice this is usually within a few days of making a request and some practices operate an Open Surgery at specific times when you can be seen that day by calling in and joining a waiting list.
There are many Dental practices available, although charges are made for dental treatment some practices operate under the NHS and at these the costs are subsidised so are usually cheaper. Check on-line to find doctors and dentists in your local area.
Self-care Medical Treatment
Self-care should be the first choice for treating minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses and complaints, such as aches and pains, coughs, colds, upset stomachs and sore throats can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest; whether treated or not, most people suffering from these will get better.
Some self-care essentials that are available to buy over-the-counter:
- paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen
- rehydration mixtures
- indigestion remedies
Remember, always follow the instructions on the pack and if the condition does not improve you should arrange to seek advice from a phamacist or make an appointment to see a doctor.
Your local pharmacist can provide free confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints, without you having to wait for a GP appointment or go to an Accident and Emergency Department. They may be able to help you with:
- eye infections, stomach upsets, skin conditions, allergies, aches and pains
- common drugs, vitamins and minor first-aid
- healthy eating and living, including giving up smoking
- blood pressure and diabetes monitoring and needle exchange, truss fittings, stoma products and incontinence supplies
- women’s health, including treatment for thrush, emergency contraception and pregnancy testing
- children’s problems, including nappy rash, teething, coughs and colds
- all prescribed and over the counter medicines
As well as the free services offered by the NHS, Northern Ireland also offers excellent standards of private healthcare and some of our employers run healthcare schemes that you can join.
Advantages of Private Healthcare:
- No queues: Your treatment will be arranged quickly and although waiting times on the NHS have improved you won’t have to wait as long for private treatment.
- Peace of mind: Many people are concerned about the problem of MRSA due to overcrowding in NHS hospitals.
- Choice: you can choose your consultant and where you want to be treated, although some employer schemes restrict treatment to set lists of hospitals.
- Private room: you don’t have to worry about being on a mixed gender ward. Depending on your policy, you may have an ensuite bathroom.
- Unrestricted visiting hours.
- Personal care: a retinue of medical students won’t accompany your appointment with the consultant and you will have more time to discuss your symptoms.
- Continuity of care: you are likely to be seen by the same consultant throughout your treatment