If you get ill at university your parents won’t be there to take you to your local GP. Here I share some useful tips on how to look after your health while away from home. 

It’s freshers week and “surprise surprise” you’ve caught the flu. What should you do now? Once you’ve made the decision to leave home you are responsible for your own health. This means that no pathetic sniffle, or cries down the phone, will have your mam rushing to pass the pills and give you a lift to the doctors.

Sorting out your health care is essential when starting university, however, along with all the excitement and pre-student night nerves it is often forgot about.  As fresher’s week unfolds the combination of late nights, copious amounts of alcohol and germ riddled encounters with unsuspecting freshers could give you the bug university doctors like to call “freshers flu.”

OK, so it might not be fresher’s flu. It could be something entirely different or true to form you’re probably suffering a hangover from the night before. It’s not uncommon for us students to panic at the first sign of illness, as we frantically set about googling miracle cures for everything from the common cold to infamous STIs. Trust me, don’t waste your time. I’m sure you’re aware the internet is a marvellous resource, but this is one problem best left to the professionals.

Here are some steps you can take towards health care independence while you’re still packing your bags, and things you should know when arriving at university:

What you can do now

It’s no secret: the go-to contact for all your general medical needs is your GP surgery and they should take responsibility of your care. But, there’s a problem. When you start university your local practice can no longer do that if you decide to move away. You will need to register with a new practice. This will, most likely, be through your university and it’s best to register with them now – not just when you need them.

The website www.campusdoctor.co.uk hosts a number of university health practices that let you complete the registration process online, before you move away. The site makes the process quick and simple, with a step-by-step guide through the form. Once registration is complete, it won’t be long before your medical notes are transferred to your new GP practice. This means that they can access your medical history and offer you the most appropriate treatment. “But, what about trips back home,” you ask. “I might fall ill, and then what?” Don’t fret, you can still visit your old doctor in the holidays but you will be seen as a temporary resident.

When you get to university remember…

 When you arrive at university you’ll have plenty of time on your hands to explore – and your first priority should be your health centre. It’s surprising how many students register with a new practice, but don’t have the first clue how to get there. Find out the location of your nearest health centre and collect any other information about contacting the doctors that you haven’t picked up online: i.e. leaflets, emergency contacts and opening hours.

Let the new surgery know if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. If you have registered prior to moving away they should be aware of your medical history. But, as a new patient, it’s a good idea to keep them up to speed.

If you will be a student in England, apply for an HC2 certificate. If you are eligible, this will help or exempt you from paying a hefty prescription fee for these (currently £8.05 per item). Without an HC2 certificate anyone aged 19 or over will pay these prescription charges. However, prescriptions are free for everyone living in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Don’t make the mistake of handing in your old prescription request form from home at your new pharmacy – they can’t send it to your old doctor for a prescription.

But, most importantly, remember to make contact with your local surgery. No doubt, if you’re ahead of the game you’ll already be registered with the surgery and know all about them. My advice is to get in touch early to avoid the unfortunate, yet in most cases inevitable, possibility of catching fresher’s flu. Trust me – you’ll wish you’d signed up sooner. What most students don’t consider is timing, as fresher’s flu almost always kicks in after the week long slog of alcohol abuse. Once your lectures start and regrettably waking up before 9am becomes a reality, the last thing you need is flu holding you back. So, register with your local surgery now and start student life as you mean to go on: healthy!