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Healthcare in the UK 

Keeping healthy

Eating the right food, and enough of it, is vital for keeping warm and healthy.

If you are living in a hall of residence that provides meals, you will probably be given a balanced diet, but you should still be careful to make sure that you eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

If you have special dietary requirements (eg, for religious or cultural reasons) make sure the catering staff know.

If you are cooking for yourself, eating healthily can be more difficult. Most big towns have stores or areas where you can buy food from different parts of the world, so you should be able to find food that is familiar.

A healthy diet is one that includes elements from all the main food groups (protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals). You should try to eat something from each of the following groups every day:

  • Bread, rice, pasta or cereals
  • Milk, cheese, yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, fish, eggs, lentils, nuts or beans.

It can be fun experimenting with new and different types of food if you have the time, and cooking does not have to be expensive. Food costs vary.

As a rule, supermarkets will be cheaper than the corner shop and street markets will be cheaper than supermarkets. Vegetables that are in season (ie, grown locally and available without being stored or imported) are usually a cheap source of food.

If you are not used to cooking, or want ideas for inexpensive recipes, most bookshops stock a range of helpful cookery books.

If sometimes you do not have the time or inclination to cook for yourself, a meal at your institution or student union refectory will probably be the cheapest alternative. Restaurants can be expensive, although local cafes can be good value for money.

Sexual health

British attitudes to sex may be different from those in your own country. It is often accepted that people who are involved in a relationship may have sex together. Of course, the choice is a personal one. You are entirely free to live according to your personal standards and should not feel pressured to adopt those of your fellow students.


If you become involved in a sexual relationship, you may wish to consider how you will avoid pregnancy. You can get advice on contraception from your doctor, or from a local Family Planning Clinic (FPC). Your institution’s welfare service will have details of where to go.

Using a rubber sheath, or condom, as a form of contraception can also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases between partners. Condoms can easily be bought from chemists, public toilets, supermarkets and petrol stations.


AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by the HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) virus, which can affect the body’s normal defence against illness.

The virus is passed on by an exchange of body fluids, through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner (of the same or the opposite sex), by sharing needles and drug injecting equipment, and from an infected pregnant woman to her child.

Using a condom can reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS in sexual intercourse. Some people carry the HIV virus for a number of years without developing AIDS or showing symptoms.

You are not at risk from HIV/AIDS from: sharing food, drinks, clothes, crockery or toilet seats; shaking hands; coughing, sneezing or day to day contact with an infected person. If you are concerned about the risks of AIDS, or want to talk confidentially, you can contact one of the helplines listed in the address list below.

Information about specific health issues


Meningitis is an illness caused by bacteria or viruses. The lining of the brain and the spinal cord become inflamed. Although meningitis is quite rare, it is a very serious condition and can be fatal. The illness tends to affect children and young adults and you may hear of cases amongst students.

Students on higher education courses in the UK are likely to be offered a meningitis vaccination when they start their course. The vaccination protects against one of the common strains of the disease, but does not protect against all strains of the illness.

The ’common cold’

The common cold is caused by a virus that irritates the nose and throat, causing sneezing and coughing. It is a very common illness in the winter months.

There is no effective cure for the common cold, but getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and fruit juices will aid recovery. A cold will usually pass after a few days. However, if symptoms get worse, or the cold lasts for a long time, you should consult your GP.

Find out more about national healthcare via the NHS.


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