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Get Care While You’re There: A Guide to London’s Games

Get Care While You’re There: A Guide to London’s Games Featured Image
37 days and counting until the Summer Olympics…

Not all of us are as quick on our feet as the athletes we’ll watch at the Summer Olympic games. So while you may be fortunate enough to get to participate as a spectator, like most of us you may be clumsy at times, prone to accidents, or have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We certainly hope everyone’s trip to the Olympics is trouble-free, but just in case, our final installment of our Guide to London’s games offers useful tips on how to find help if you need it. Ready? Set…go!

How Do I Get Medical Care?

While medical services are widely available in London, free care under the National Health System (NHS) is allowed only for UK residents and certain EU nationals.

According the Marshall Raffel, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Health Policy and Administration at The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA:

The quality of health care is comparable to that in the United States… Some specialties and high technology services are not as widespread as in the United States, and patients needing those services may have to be referred to the regional hospital or in some instances to a hospital in one of the larger cities.

Americans, and others from non-European Union countries, can easily access the British system for routine, non-emergency care on a private paying basis. Direct access to specialists, most of whom are hospital based, can be very difficult since specialists are reluctant to see even private patients without a general practitioner’s referral. An exception might be around Harley Street in London and in some of the large cities where there are a number of specialists in private practice. Their fees will be substantial and we recommend purchasing private travel health insurance.

For emergency care Americans should go only to the National Health Service (NHS) hospital which has an Accident & Emergency (A&E) department. These hospitals are most common in the larger cities. The nationwide emergency telephone number is 999, which is like 911 in the U.S.

As in most European countries, there are waiting times for admission to hospitals for non-emergency surgery. There is, however, no waiting time for emergency admissions to NHS hospitals. Seeking medical care for non-life threatening medical conditions at a private hospital is usually a lot quicker; however, more expensive. If you need an international health insurance quote, please contact Insurance Services of America at (800) 647-4589 or (480) 821-9052 or get an instant travel medical insurance quote online at www.overseashealth.com.

In the United Kingdom, what is known as a pharmacy in the United States is referred to as a “chemist.” Chemists are recognizable by a green cross displayed outside or within the store window. In general, the pharmacies in the United Kingdom are reliable. That is, they dispense the proper medications and the drugs themselves are of a U.S./International level of quality. The pharmacists themselves are trained professionals with degrees in their field. Pharmacies in the United Kingdom can be used for all of your prescription and over-the-counter drug needs. Similar to the United States, pharmacists cannot distribute prescription medications without authorization from a doctor.

Regular business hours for pharmacies differ throughout the United Kingdom. The hours are usually listed on the front door of the chemist or pharmacy. Boots and Lloyds are major chains of pharmacies that can be counted on for quality medications and reliable services; however, it is always advisable to bring enough medication to last through your trip. Be sure to carry it with you rather than trusting it to checked luggage (many frequent travelers bring a double supply of medication and pack each in different bags). It is also advisable to carry extra prescription sheets written by your doctor (with the generic names) in case you need refills during your trip and to show at customs as proof of the medication’s identity and necessity.

A final bit of advice: Print a wallet-size card with local emergency access numbers and notable medical facilities.


If you’re fortunate enough to be attending the 2012 Summer Olympics and are curious about your travel insurance options, please don’t hesitate to Ask An Advisor or call us at (800) 647-4589 to speak with a Client Advisor.

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