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National Health Service (NHS)

Contributor(s): Jane McPherson

The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded national healthcare system in the United Kingdom. The organization, funded primarily by taxation, provides free or low-cost healthcare to all legal residents of the U.K. Medications are subsidized as well and prescriptions may be free when situations warrant. Specific policies vary among England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The U.K. Department of Health oversees the NHS. Patient records are maintained by healthcare providers, who must ensure confidentiality of patient data and compliance with regulatory standards such as the Data Protection Act.

The NHS is an example of a universal healthcare system. Other countries which have universal healthcare systems, albeit with some variations, include Canada and Switzerland. The United States does not have a universal healthcare system.


This was last updated in October 2011

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