The National Health Service (NHS), which was established in 1948, provides (almost) free health care to all. The finance comes mostly from general taxation (81 percent), plus some from the national insurance contributions (12 percent) - paid by both employee and employer - and 7 percent from other charges.
Use of the NHS is largely free but certain things have to be paid for, for example eye tests, dental treatment and drug prescription charges. When you visit your doctor or hospital you have to pay only for the medicines. However certain groups (low income groups, children, people over the age of 60, pregnant women and people with certain illnesses) are exempt from charges. If you need to stay in hospital there is no charge for treatment or medicines.
Family doctors in Britain are known as General Practioners, and usually called GPs.
When you are ill, and it is not an emergency, you go first to your local doctor. If necessary, the doctor will refer you to hospital to see a consultant for more specialised treatment.
People in England can pay to have treatment via private consultants at the many private hospitals. Alternative medicine, i.e. reflexology, osteopathy, aromatherapy, acupunture etc. is mostly private but sometimes available on the NHS.
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History of the Healthcare Service