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Each NHS (National Health Service) system uses General Practitioners (GPs) to provide primary healthcare and to make referrals to further services as necessary. Hospitals then provide more specialist services, including care for patients with psychiatric illnesses, as well as direct access to Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments. Community pharmacies are privately owned but have contracts with the relevant health service to supply prescription drugs.

The public healthcare system also provides free (at the point of service) ambulance services for emergencies, when patients need the specialist transport only available from ambulance crews or when patients are not fit to travel home by public transport. These services are generally supplemented when necessary by the voluntary ambulance services (British Red Cross, St Andrews Ambulance Association and St John Ambulance). In addition, patient transport services by air are provided by the Scottish Ambulance Service in Scotland and elsewhere by county or regional air ambulance trusts (sometimes operated jointly with local police helicopter services) throughout England and Wales.

In specific emergencies, emergency air transport is also provided by naval, military and air force aircraft of whatever type might be appropriate or available on each occasion, and dentists can only charge NHS patients at the set rates for each country. Patients opting to be treated privately do not receive any NHS funding for the treatment. About half of the income of dentists in England comes from work sub-contracted from the NHS, however not all dentists choose to do NHS work.

When purchasing drugs, the NHS has significant market power that, based on its own assessment of the fair value of the drugs, influences the global price, typically keeping prices lower. Several other countries either copy the U.K.'s model or directly rely on Britain’s assessments for their own decisions on state-financed drug reimbursements.

Private medicine
Private medicine, where patients, or their insurers, pay for treatment in the UK is a niche market. Some is provided by NHS hospitals. Private providers also contract with the NHS, especially in England, to provide treatment for NHS patients, particularly in mental health and planned surgery.

Patients also go abroad for treatment. In 2014 about 48,000 went abroad for treatment and about 144,000 in 2016. This may be driven by increasing waiting times for NHS treatment, but will also include migrants who may return to their home country for treatment, especially childbirth. It also includes fertility services, dentistry and cosmetic surgery which may not be available on the NHS. See Medical tourism.

wikipedia.org

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