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NHS general practitioners (GPs) services

Your local GP practice

GPs 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, mental health services and social care services.

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 - please ask for one. 

Practices also display information about their services and members of staff on NHS Choices; simply use the "services near you" facility to look up a GP practice. Once you’re on the GP profile, you can also find out what online services are provided by your GP, such as appointment bookings or ordering repeat prescriptions. Each available service is listed under "online facilities" on the "overview" and "facilities" pages of the GP profile (see example image). You can log into online services directly from NHS Choices. Alternatively, you can check with your GP practice.

Choosing a GP

You have the legal right to choose a GP practice that best suits your needs. Try comparing GP practices according to facilities, services, access and performance before you decide. Ask friends, relatives and others you trust for their thoughts and recommendations.

The GP practice must accept you, unless there are reasonable grounds to refuse you. 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. A GP practice may refuse to register you because:

  • it has no capacity to take on new patients
  • it may not be accepting patients that do not live within its practice boundary
  • in your particular circumstances, it may not be appropriate for you to register with a practice that is a long way from where you live.

Since January 2015, all GP practices in England are free to register new patients who live outside their practice boundary area, but it is for a practice to decide, at the point of registration, whether it is clinically appropriate and practical to register individual patients in that way. For more information, read about patient choice of GP practices.

You can read more about your legal rights to choice in the NHS on the GOV.UK website.

If you have problems registering with a nearby GP practice, contact NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre.

Can I change GP practice?

You have the right to change practices if you wish to. Many people switch practices because they:

Whatever your motives, you can change practices without having to give a reason. However, it is helpful to tell the practice you are leaving. You can then approach another practice and apply to join its list of patients.

Being registered at another local practice is not a reason to be refused registration with another GP.

Registering with a GP

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, 107kb) 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, NHS England 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.

Some GP practices may ask for proof of identity when you register, especially when you register children in your care. Your ID will also ensure you are matched with your details on the NHS central patient registry and that your previous medical notes are passed onto the new practice. However, registration and appointments should not be withheld from you on the basis that you don’t have the necessary proof of address or personal identification at hand. It is not considered a reasonable ground to refuse registration.

 

How to register as a homeless patient

If you are homeless, you are still entitled to register with a GP using a temporary address which may be a friend's address or a day centre. Some GP practices have used their own address in the past to register a homeless patient.

How to register as a former armed forces member

The Defence Medical Services (DMS) have their own GP services that look after serving personnel, mobilised reservists and some families. Once you leave the armed forces, your primary healthcare (GPs, dentists, etc.) reverts to the responsibility of your local NHS. This means, you’ll have to register with a local GP in your area. Ensure to let the GP practice know that you are a veteran as, depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to specialist care or support. All veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS hospital care for any condition as long as it's related to your service and is clinically necessary, regardless of whether or not you receive a war pension.

When you leave the armed forces you should be given a summary of your medical records and you should pass those on to your new GP when you register. The practice will also be advised of prior registration with Defence Medical Services and with a summary of your in-service care.

More information on the duty of care owed to service personnel is contained in the armed forces covenant (PDF, 191kb).  Also see the information about Healthcare for the armed forces community on this site.

Information for those moving or visiting England

You don’t need to be ordinarily resident in England to access GP services without charge. However, charges may occur if you need a hospital referral or other specialist treatment. If you recently moved to England or you are just visiting, please look up the particular guidance about access to NHS healthcare.

How to register as a temporary resident?

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.

Consider calling NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you're not sure which NHS service you need.

Registration as a temporary resident allows you to be taken on to the practice’s list for up to three months. 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 attend your appointment for the first time:

  • details of your ongoing medical problems
  • details of medical problems you have suffered in the past
  • the name of any medicines that you are currently taking
  • details of any allergies
  • contact details of your registered or previous practice

 

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2016

Next review due: 13/01/2018

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