Britain is rightly proud of its National Health Service (NHS) – it even featured in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony! Established in 1948, the NHS was first universal health care system established anywhere in the world and aims to bring good healthcare to all. All hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians, and dentists are brought together under one umbrella organization to provide services that are free for all at the point of delivery. The system is funded by taxation so that everyone pays into the system according to their means.

Health policy and funding is an ever-current topic. Funding of health initiatives, including the NHS, consumes about 20% of the UK public spending. Spending cuts and wage freezes have increased pressure on the NHS, particularly since the Great Recession, leading to reduced services and strikes by health care professionals.

The void created by spending cuts has only increased the number of organizations outside the NHS which seek to provide low-cost services, raise awareness and fund research. The primary economic activity of 18% percent of UK voluntary organizations is the provision of social services, and health occupies an additional 5%.

No internships in the NHS are available on the FIE program for various reasons, including qualification issues, competition with UK students and stringent patient access/confidentiality laws. However, many other organizations work to improve public health and wellbeing, and these can offer students excellent opportunities to learn about British policies and services in a non-clinical setting. 

Special Note Arrow For patient safety and confidentiality reasons, the NHS generally does not offer internship placements to international undergraduate students. There are no placements in medicine (in-patient or out-patient) or in research lab settings. 


Special Note Arrow  All students interested in working with vulnerable people or sensitive data/information will need to bring a valid police check to London. Learn more here.




Students who choose Public Health & Wellbeing may be placed in any of the opportunities below. If a particular sub-area catches your eye, let us know on your MyInternship form. 

Disease & Research Charities

There are a number of placements in charities which seek to raise awareness, lobby the government, educate the public on self-care, and fund research into particular diseases, illnesses and disabilities. Placements in these organizations are office-based and tasks can be wide-ranging, including communications, marketing, fundraising, events planning, liaising with stakeholders, operations and general administrative duties. If students are interested in a particular category of health issues, possibly because of personal experience or academic interest, they should describe this on their MyInternship form as charities are always keen to host students with a particular interest in the area. 

Health & Wellbeing Programs 

Some organizations seek to improve the health and wellbeing of the public through training, education and behavior changes. Examples include smoking cessation, learning to cook healthy food, or supporting people through life challenges. Interns might have the opportunity to interact with users in an educational setting, but tasks typically include updating materials, attending or assisting with training, or general operations and administrative support. 

Mental Health Organizations (XX = Significant Relevant Experience Required)

Unfortunately, an area where the NHS consistently draws criticism for providing insufficient service is in the area of mental health. To help bridge the gap, many organizations seek to support those with mental illnesses and the situations which often coincide with them, such as disabilities, un- and underemployment, homelessness, drug abuse, and physical abuse. While there are no opportunities to work in psychotherapy, clinical or counseling settings, students wishing to gain hands-on experience with people can sometimes intern in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and community organizations. There are also opportunities to support adults and youth with developmental and learning disabilities on programs which provide vocational training or recreational opportunities. Given the nature of these placements, students will need to demonstrate prior experience working in challenging circumstances and the emotional maturity to be resilient when encountering upsetting situations. 

Research & Data Collection

Occasionally non-lab research projects are available for students with the relevant background and skills. Projects are varied, but in the past they have included going out into the community and interviewing users, processing data from membership and feedback surveys, transcribing interviews, and collating testimonials. Research tasks usually only occupy part of the role, with the remainder consisting of other communications, operations, and administrative tasks.



Due to security and confidentiality, the NHS generally does not offer internship placements to international students. In the UK, students wishing to work as medical practitioners must undertake a doctorate degree following their undergraduate and Master’s level studies. Gaining entry to the course is highly competitive and students must obtain work experience before applying. As such, working with practitioners is typically only open to UK students in a training program who have already obtained a Master’s degree.

Security, confidentiality, and legal requirements to protect vulnerable people may limit an intern’s access to certain types of roles and tasks. Additionally, the amount of training required, for example, to be a hospital volunteer or work with disabled children, is not compatible with the short duration of an FIE internship.

A clean police check is required for most roles where a student will have access to vulnerable people (for example children, patients or the homeless) or sensitive information. Students with previous criminal history, or history they do not wish to disclose to potential employers and the FIE Internship Team should carefully consider applying for a public health and wellbeing internship.


  • Understanding of health services in the UK
  • Flexibility and willingness to work on a variety of tasks, including desk-based and administrative duties
  • Sensitivity to the cases/subject matter they are working with
  • A clean police check
  • For hands-on roles, previous experience working with the public is required

Relevant academic experience. Applicable majors include Health, Medicine, Child and Adolescent Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, and Education.


  • Include all relevant previous experience. Volunteer experiences can be especially important to highlight.
  • If you have received any relevant training or certificates (for example, mediating conflict, suicide prevention, sexual harassment awareness, etc.) be sure to list these.
  • If you have relevant personal experience which you wish to disclose as an explanation of the source of your interest in the field, please do so in the personal statement. Keep in mind, however, that this is a professional document, so language should not be overly emotive and the focus should remain on the direct and transferable skills which make you a strong candidate. 
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