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NHS general practitioners (GPs)

Your local GP practice

GPs look after the health of people in their local community and deal with a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, offer advice on smoking and diet, run clinics, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical operations.

GPs usually work in practices as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, practice managers, receptionists and other staff.  Practices also work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as health visitors, midwives, and social services. You would normally see GPs or other healthcare professionals at their premises (surgery).  Some operate from more than one building.  If your GP cannot deal with a problem then you’ll usually be referred to a hospital for tests, treatment, or to see a consultant with specialist knowledge.

GP practices should make information about their services easily available to their patients. Most practices have a practice leaflet available, otherwise please ask for one.

Finding the right GP practice

You can register with a GP practice of your choice, as long as you live within its catchment area and it is accepting new patients. Visits to the surgery are free.

Researching your options can help you find the right GP practice. Read the section about choosing a GP practice for tips and advice or compare local GP practices according to facilities, services, access and performance before you decide. Ask friends, relatives and others you trust for their thoughts and recommendations.

You can also download a copy of It's your practice – a patient guide to GP services (PDF, 1.9Mb) which is produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners to help you choose – and get the most from – a GP practice.

If you are having problems registering with a nearby doctor then please contact your local NHS Commissioning Board Area Team.

How to register with a GP practice

When you have found a practice you like, you’ll have to formally register with it as an NHS patient by submitting a registration form to them. The GMS1 form (PDF, 107 kb) is available in the practice or you can download it from this site. 

Forms may vary slightly and some practices use their own version.

When you have completed and returned the form, your local NHS Commissioning Board Area Team will transfer your medical records to your new practice and write to you to confirm your registration as a patient with that practice.

Parents or guardians can register a baby at a practice by completing and presenting form FP58 (PDF 34Kb), which is issued at the same time as a birth certificate.

A practice cannot refuse you unless it has reasonable grounds for doing so. These must not relate to race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability, or a medical condition. It must also give you reasons for its decision in writing. However, you may be refused if you are living outside the practice’s catchment area or the practice is generally not accepting new patients at the time because its list is closed. Find out if your local GP practice  is currently accepting new patients.

Tip

You can register with a GP practice as a temporary resident under certain circumstances – when you are in an area for more than 24 hours but less than three months. See information below 'What if I am ill while I'm away from home?'

Booking an appointment

There are no set rules for this. However, your practice should be able to offer you an appointment to see a GP or other healthcare professional quickly if necessary. You can normally see any doctor within your practice. This is quite normal, especially if you need an appointment quickly. However, if it is more convenient, you should also be able to book appointments in advance. It is important to keep your appointment, or notify the practice if you have to cancel or change it.  Read the section about GP appointments for more detailed advice.

TipYou can also visit an NHS walk-in centre (WiC) or Minor injuries unit (MIU). These can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes. NHS WiCs and MIUs have proved to be a successful complementary service to traditional GP and A&E services. Some NHS WiCs offer access to doctors as well as nurses. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems. You don't need to be registered and you don't need an appointment. Any member of the public can simply walk in to be seen regardless of where they are registered. Some offer pre-booked appointments.

How to complain

If you disagree with the way your GP wants to treat your health problem, or you're unhappy about the service provided by your GP practice, tell them openly. However, if you feel unable to do so or you're unhappy with the response you receive, you may wish to make a complaint.

All GP practices have a written complaints procedure. You will find this at the reception or on the practice website. As a first step, speak to the practice manager. You can also complain to the practice in writing or by email. If this doesn't resolve the problem, or you'd rather not raise the issue directly with the practice, you can complain to the NHS Commissioning Board Area Teams.

TipYou can rate and comment about your GP practice on this site. Let others know what you think of your GP practice. Type your postcode into the red box, select your surgery and click to add your comment. You can rate hospitals too.

Can I change practice?

There are several reasons why you may need to find a new practice such as:

  • you have moved into a new area,
  • you have moved outside the catchment area of your current practice,
  • there is a problem with your relationship with your current practice, or
  • your current practice has taken steps to remove you from its list.

You have the right to change practice without giving a reason, but it is helpful if you notify the practice that you are leaving. You can approach another practice and apply to join its list of patients. When you are accepted by a new practice, your medical records will be transferred across.

Also read the information about ‘What shall I do if a GP practice has me removed from its patient list?’.

What is a NHS medical card

When you register with a GP practice, you may receive an NHS medical card. This is also known as form FP4, which provides basic details such as a patient's name, address, NHS number, registered GP practice (or the name of an individual practitioner) and details of the local PCT.

NHS medical cards are not used everywhere. Some NHS Commissioning Board Area Teams don't issue them at all, others do so only on request.

What do I do if I am ill while I'm away from home?

If you fall ill while away from home or if you are not registered with a GP practice but you need to see one, you can still contact your nearest practice to ask for treatment.

You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.

Registration as a temporary resident allows you to be taken onto the practice’s list for up to a three-month period. If you are registered with a practice but are away from your home area, you can register temporarily with a practice near where you are currently staying and still remain a patient of your registered practice.

Try to have the following information available when you see attend your appointment for the first time:

  • Details of your on-going medical problems
  • Details of medical problems you have suffered in the past
  • The name of any medicines that you are currently taking
  • Details of anything allergies
  • Contact details of your registered or previous practice

TipYou can also visit a NHS walk-in centre (WiCs) or Minor injuries units (MIUs). These can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems. You don't need to be registered and you don't need an appointment. Any member of the public can simply walk in to be seen regardless of where they are registered. Some offer pre-booked appointments.

Treatment abroad

It's not always easy to get treatment abroad, so plan ahead. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment while you're in a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. However, you should still take out private health insurance as an EHIC will not necessarily cover all the costs of your treatment and never covers the cost of repatriation. Note: The EHIC has replaced the old E111, which is no longer valid.

Find more information about out how to access healthcare abroad.

Comments

The 10 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

throwawayaccount said on 15 September 2013

How do I find out which GP practice I'm registered with?

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Zubbo said on 27 August 2013

@NJEC:

Taking a PhD isn't a 'top career'. Law, medicine and banking are examples of top careers.

There's no reason everyone in the UK should be covered for health while abroad in every country all over the world. It would open us up to paying enormous costs and benefiting scammers everywhere.

And your medical records can be obtained for £10 on application to your doctors with a Data Protection Act request.

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NJEC said on 09 July 2013

I've lived in the UK all my life, paid taxes and will remain both a UK citizen and a permanent resident. However, I am about to start a PhD abroad. I thought the GP receptionist had got it wrong when she told me I was no longer entitled to NHS care! But nope... I daresay I've contributed more than the average person my age has to this country, and my legal residency remains here.

My medical records will disappear as though they never existed! This is a totally shameful law and must change for the 21st century when migration is necessary for the top careers (note I will not -legally- be emigrating). I'm being punished for going to a top-rated university in my field? I love the NHS, but this is ludicrous. All I need are my medical records to prove I've had the correct vaccinations, but no!

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franktalking said on 10 June 2013

My GP practice has de-registered me as I live on a boat and have no address - this at the request of the City and Hackney Health Authority. My understanding is that the law allows me to register, possibly using the practice address. I wondered if anyone knew which Act of Parliament was involved as I need to contest this. I'm asthmatic and rely on regular prescription. I also have a metal clip in my brain from previous surgery to my health needs are potentially serious. As I'm not homeless I don't feel homeless services are appropriate for me. Also this affects my entire community of boat people in London.

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riverroberts said on 07 June 2013

Hi,
My GP is tryign to charge me £100 to sign a complete fit to work form, this to me seems really excessive, am I wrong in not expecting to pay this much or is this normal !! If not, is there much I can do anout it ???

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avswan said on 17 April 2013

" If your GP cannot deal with a problem then you’ll usually be referred to a hospital for tests, treatment, or to see a consultant with specialist knowledge."
There are many more options than hospital, many primary care and community healthcare professionals who have specialist knowledge. We need to be making more use of GPs with special interests (GPwSI), specialist nurses and allied health professionals, rather than relying on expensive hospital resources.

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Rob Davenport said on 16 April 2013

There's no such organisation as a PCT now

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Danny Byrne said on 04 April 2012

Not a whole load of information here considering all the links you need to go through to get here!

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Jean Audrain said on 25 January 2012

Oops !
The translation in French is hilarious.
Sorry.

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Jean Audrain said on 25 January 2012

The translation in english of this site is hilarious.

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Page last reviewed: 28/01/2013

Next review due: 28/01/2015

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