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Health and social care rights

Explains your rights to social care, and how this differs from healthcare. Includes information on eligibility, needs assessments, financial assessments, and how local authorities may meet your needs.

What is healthcare?

Healthcare means the services provided to you to maintain and improve your health. This involves preventing, diagnosing and treating mental and physical illnesses, diseases and injuries.

Healthcare provided by the NHS is free at the point of delivery to UK residents, apart from certain things, such as dental care and eye tests. In Wales prescriptions are also free. In England perscriptions are free for some, but others have to pay for them. If you live in England it's worth checking on the NHS website to see if you're entitled to free prescriptions.

Who provides healthcare?

Healthcare is provided by the NHS or by private providers. This includes:

  • GPs
  • hospital doctors
  • nurses (for example, community mental health nurses, district nurses or practice nurses)
  • clinical psychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • occupational therapists
  • speech and language therapists
  • dentists and opticians.

What are primary, secondary and tertiary care?

The NHS is divided into three different types of healthcare:

  1. Primary care is often the first point of contact for people in need of healthcare. It's provided by professionals such as GPs, dentists and pharmacists.
  2. Secondary care is services which generally will need a referral from a GP. Examples of secondary mental health services are hospitals, some psychological wellbeing services, community mental health teams (CMHTs), crisis resolution and home treatment teams (CRHTs), assertive outreach teams and early intervention teams.
  3. Tertiary care is highly specialised treatment such as secure forensic mental health services.

Where is healthcare provided?

Healthcare can be provided in various locations, for example:

(See our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem for information on how to access healthcare.)

This information was published in February 2018. 

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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