As September draws ever closer, students up and down the country will be preparing to head off for their first term of university. Going to university can be an overwhelming experience, especially as many of you will be living by yourself for the first time. With so much to remember and learn - often in a new area - it can be difficult to ensure your health remains a priority.
However, making sure you keep on top of any existing health conditions is incredibly important. Alistair Murray, Clinical Director at Echo, gives some helpful tips on how to look after your physical and mental health at university and get the most out of this life-changing experience.
1. Plan ahead
The first few weeks of university are a whirlwind of activity, so use the time you have before then to sort out any necessary health arrangements. This should include signing up for a GP. Most uni towns will have their own health centre where the GPs are familiar with issues that students frequently face. While you’ll be there the majority of the time, when you’re back home for the holidays you can still visit your local GP for up to 14 days of care before you need to register as a temporary resident. If you have a serious condition that could affect your day to day uni life, make sure you alert the university ahead of time - including those in charge of your accommodation and department.
2. Make sure your records follow you
GP services don’t necessarily pass on your records when you sign up to a new practice, so once you’ve registered ask for your files to be shared with your new GP. This is particularly important if you have a repeat prescription, as it will make life easier when it comes to ordering your next set of medication. Make sure you know your NHS number as this is the easiest way to find your records easily. What’s more, having a Summary Care Record (SCR) entry will make it easier if you need to register as a temporary patient somewhere. Ask you GP to confirm whether you have an SCR.
You don’t want to have to visit your new GP in Freshers' Week because you’ve already run out of your medication. As such, it’s worth making a quick trip to your home GP before you leave to explain why you want extra and thus get a refill. This may require making an appointment, but many GPs can do this over the phone.
4. Going abroad?
Extra preparation is needed for those students going to university in another country - whether it’s as close as Scotland or as far-flung as Australia - you must be aware of the new healthcare system you are entering and what this might mean for your health condition. (In Scotland, for example, prescriptions are free.) Do some research into the country you are going to and register with a doctor there if possible. If you take medication, make sure you bring a note from your doctor alongside your prescription. Having these translated will also be beneficial if you’re going to a non-English speaking country. You can find out more about travelling abroad with your meds here.
5. Keep to your routine
A routine can be difficult to maintain at university - particularly for those who have very few contact hours on their degree. However, sticking to your routine is vital for some health conditions - especially if you take medication for it. Some medications need to be taken at a set time each day. Setting reminders through an app like Echo can help you keep track of your medication.
6. Take advantage of technology
University may perhaps be the first time you will have taken sole responsibility for your health. Although there’s no Mum and Dad around to make sure you're picking up your prescription or taking your medication, tech can offer a helping hand. Along with all the apps helping you track your lectures or find out about local club nights, apps like Echo allow you to manage your medication by sending out reminders for when to take it and when to order more – delivering the medication straight to your door. Leaving you to enjoy the university experience to the full.
7. Tell your friends and flatmates
If you have a serious health condition, allergies or take repeat medication, tell at least one friend or flatmate. In the unlikely instance that something goes wrong, you’ll be thankful for having someone close by that knows and understands your condition.
8. Find your support network
According to YouGov, 1 in 4 uni students have a mental health condition. Stress and anxiety can be common as you deal with challenging work, tight deadlines and living by yourself. However, if you do have or develop a mental health issue during your time, you will not be alone. There are a number of groups that can help support you during these times from your GP to wellbeing services to student-led support groups. Make sure you are aware of the groups available to you and use them as you need. This will also mean you are equipped to advise and support others.
Factor in new prescription costs that come in when you turn 19, which currently stand at £8.80 per item. For certain conditions, you may be entitled to free prescriptions after your 19th birthday. If your total income/assets are below a threshold, you can apply for an HC2 certificate. This means all your prescriptions are free.
If you are not exempt, it’s possible to save money on your repeat prescriptions with prepayment deals that have three-monthly or yearly charges. Check here to see if you're eligible for either of these schemes. You can also save money by checking to see if any medication you are prescribed is available for cheaper over the counter.
10. Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk
While it’s important to have fun, increased alcohol consumption can inhibit the effectiveness and increase the side effects of medication, so don’t put your health at risk. Monitor your alcohol intake and be aware of any unusual effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, headaches or a loss of coordination - particular during the festivities of freshers week