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The National Health Service (NHS) is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. The systems are primarily funded through general taxation rather than requiring insurance payments, and were founded in 1948. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom.
The individual systems are:
Only the English NHS is officially called the "National Health Service", however the other three services are referred to as "the NHS" in common speech.
Each system operates independently, and is politically accountable to the relevant government: the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, and the UK Government which is responsible for England's NHS.
Despite their separate funding and administration, there is no discrimination when a resident of one country of the United Kingdom requires treatment in another, although a patient will often be returned to their home area when they are fit to be moved. The financial and administrative consequences are dealt with by the organisations involved and no personal involvement by the patient is required.
Treatment of persons not resident in the United Kingdom is subject to mostly uniform arrangements made by or delegated to the UK Department of Health rather than any individual health service. Foreign nationals always receive treatment free at the time of use for emergencies.
Foreign nationals also receive free treatment if they have been legally resident in the UK for 12 months, have recently arrived to take up permanent residence, are claiming asylum or have other legal resident status. Citizens of European Economic Area nations, as well as those from countries with which the UK has a reciprocal arrangements, are also entitled to free treatment by using the European Health Insurance Card. Foreign nationals may be subject to an interview to establish their nationality and residence status, which must be resolved before non-emergency treatment can commence. Patients who do not qualify for free treatment are asked to pay in advance, or to sign a written undertaking to pay.
Treatment for injuries caused in a road traffic accident has been chargeable since the 1930s, but such charges were not generally enforced until the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 came into force to direct the charges to the insurers of the vehicles involved. This necessarily involves patients in the charging process even though they are not personally billed for treatment.