health articles

Student Health

Virtually Healthcare is a cutting-edge GP practice providing comprehensive healthcare, contraception, sexual health services and vaccinations for students. The service is readily available remotely or in-person, with all appointments free of charge on the NHS.


How to access healthcare when you're at university?

As a student, it’s important to register with a local GP to access treatment, contraception, immunisation, and support for your physical and mental health.

It’s crucial to have a GP close at hand if you have a chronic health problem like asthma, epilepsy or type 1 diabetes. However, everyone should have a GP to access health care and get emergency treatment for illness.

Student healthcare at Virtually Healthcare

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice, providing expert care in the comfort and privacy of your student accommodation. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit in with student lives. You can access consultations easily with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly-skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as experienced GPs, the team includes sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

If you would like help to improve your mental health Virtually’s mental-health support coordinator will sign-posting you to appropriate NHS mental health services.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments, with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

At Virtually Healthcare, our focus is on you. Our clinicians take a holistic approach to care. Whether you want an easy, convenient way to get contraception, a discreet testing service for STIs, or support during a mental health crisis, our dedicated team can provide expert advice and treatment.

Sexual health testing and treatment for students

Virtually Healthcare provides discreet sexual health screening in the privacy of your own room. Our sexual health doctors offer remote consultations on the phone or by video link. They can arrange for tests to be sent directly to you to take samples and send them off for expert analysis.

The specialists recommend regular STI screening for anyone who is sexually active. It’s particularly important if you’ve changed partners or have symptoms.

Virtually Healthcare’s STI screening service is quick, discreet and easily accessible. Our doctors will contact you with results, prescribe any necessary medication, or refer you to a specialist team for ongoing treatment.

Our STI tests include:

  • Chlamydia testing using a urine sample
  • Syphilis testing using a finger-prick blood sample
  • Gonorrhoea testing using a urine sample
  • Hepatitis B and C testing using finger-prick blood samples
  • HIV testing using finger-prick blood samples
  • Trichomonas testing using a urine sample (men only)
  • Appointments to check for herpes (HSV) or wart (HPV) infection

How to stay healthy at university

There’s lots that you can do to help yourself stay healthy as a student.

  • Stay active: Exercise significantly boosts mood and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety 2 ., it also improves your health and protects against stress and stress-related disease 3.
  • Eat well: A healthy balanced diet will prevent weight gain and nourish your body.
  • Sleep hygiene: We all feel better after a good night’s sleep, and poor sleep can have effects on your physical and mental health as well as your ability to function effectively 4. As a student, parties, essay deadlines, phone and computer screens and too much coffee can disrupt your rest. Try and ensure you get the rest you need.
  • Cut back on coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs: If you need support to quit, see our doctors for advice.

Which vaccinations should students have?

Vaccination prepares the body to fight diseases and helps you remain healthy and well. As a student, you are at risk of certain infections, particularly in your first weeks at university when you meet many new people. The skilled practise nurses at Virtually Healthcare provide safe and effective vaccines to protect against potentially dangerous infections. These include:

  • MenACWY vaccination: This protects against four types of meningitis and septicaemia and is part of the NHS vaccination programme for those in school year 13 and university students up to 25 years of age. Ideally, you should have this before you start at university; if you have not had the vaccine, contact Virtually Healthcare for an appointment as soon as possible.
  • Mumps vaccination: The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is given routinely to children as part of the NHS immunisation programme. Most students will have had two doses in childhood. If you’ve missed a dose or are not sure, contact Virtually Healthcare for a booster jab or two catch-up injections.
  • Flu vaccination: The NHS provides an annual flu vaccination for some students and young people. If you have asthma and take regular inhaled steroids (often a brown inhaler), or have a chronic condition such as type 1 diabetes or kidney disease, contact Virtually Healthcare in the autumn term.

Mental health support

Being at university can be exciting, but it is also a time of pressure and change. Many students find it difficult to adapt to the challenges of their new environment, and as many as one in five students has a mental health problem 1. The coronavirus pandemic has added to the stresses, with students facing social isolation, course changes and difficulties accessing support.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. As well as your university’s pastoral care service, the experienced GPs at Virtual Healthcare can provide support and a listening ear. If necessary, they can:

  • Refer you to a counsellor for an appropriate talking therapy.
  • Prescribe medication.
  • Provide support if you are struggling with your gender or sexuality.
  • Refer you for eating disorder treatment.
  • Signpost you to safe and reliable sources of information and help.

How to receive free contraception as a student

The specialist family planning GPs at Virtually Healthcare provide a comprehensive range of free contraceptive services. They will listen to your lifestyle, preferences, and any pregnancy plans before suggesting your options.

These could include:

  • Male or female condoms.
  • Combined oral contraceptive also known as ‘the pill’
  • Contraceptive patch
  • Progestogen-only or ‘mini ‘pill
  • Contraceptive implant
  • Contraceptive injection
  • The IUD or coil
  • The IUS or Mirena
  • Vaginal ring
Hot topics in student health


The MMR controversy in the late nineties resulted in a decrease in the number of children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella. These children are now young adults, and the loss of herd immunity means we are seeing outbreaks of mumps in the student population.

Mumps is a very contagious virus. It is usually a mild infection causing fever, malaise and painful swelling of the parotid glands. The glands are in front of the ears distorting the face and giving an appearance like a chipmunk. However, in some people, mumps can be serious, causing brain inflammation (encephalitis) and inflammation of the testes in men, which can cause infertility.

Mumps is a notifiable disease. If you are worried that you are affected, get in touch with Virtually Healthcare for testing and advice, our doctors will contact the local health protection team5.

How to get treatment during the holidays or if you lockdown at home

Many students are concerned about accessing healthcare when they are away from their student accommodation. Many students have chosen to lockdown at home during the pandemic, so this has become more of an issue. The clinicians at Virtually Healthcare can provide quick access video or telephone consultations. However, if you need face-to-face assessment or treatment, you can contact your nearest GP practice.

GP practices can provide emergency treatment for two weeks. They can also register you as a temporary resident so that you can access ongoing care. Alternatively, if you have a minor injury or mild illness, you could visit an NHS urgent treatment centre.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. HIV can develop into AIDS, particularly if it is untreated. In AIDS, the immune system is progressively damaged so that you are more vulnerable to infections, cancers and serious diseases that may be life-threatening.


Russell T Davies’ excellent drama ‘It’s a Sin’ has thrown the subject of HIV and AIDS back into the spotlight. The specialist sexual health doctors at Virtually Healthcare, like doctors across the UK, have seen a notable increase in people seeking HIV tests since the programme was aired.

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. If untreated, HIV can gradually affect your immune system weakening your resistance to infection and disease. HIV is found in blood, semen and other body fluids. It is usually spread between partners during unprotected sex or by sharing needles and other injecting equipment.

Is there a cure for AIDS?

Currently, there is no vaccination or cure for HIV and AIDS. However, early diagnosis and effective treatment can ensure you live a long, healthy life with the condition. If you are concerned that you have been exposed to HIV, an emergency treatment known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours may prevent infection.

If you are worried about HIV, Virtually Healthcare offers reliable testing in the privacy of your home. They will also provide support as you get your results by e-mail, phone call or in a face-to-face appointment.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.