The National Health Service (NHS) 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. Only the English NHS is officially called the National Health Service, the others being NHS Scotland and NHS Wales.

Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is called the HSC rather than the NHS. Each system operates independently, and is politically accountable to the relevant government.

Health services in the UK are divided into “primary” and “secondary” and are provided by local NHS organisations called “trusts” and these are directly accountable to the strategic health authorities.

Primary care covers everyday health services such as GPs’ surgeries, dentists and opticians and these are delivered by “primary care trusts”.

Secondary care refers to specialised services such as hospitals, ambulances and mental health provision and these are delivered by a range of other NHS trusts.

Private hospitals: There are over 300 private hospitals in the UK. Private hospitals are provided by private hospital groups and the NHS also provides a number of private patient units within its hospitals. Private hospitals are licensed by the local healthcare authority, which conducts two inspections a year. They are not regulated by the national inspection bodies that monitor NHS organisations.

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