You are here:

NHS general practitioners (GPs)

Patient choice of GP practices

During 2012 and 2013, the Department of Health ran a pilot scheme to explore how patient choice of GP practice could be expanded. The Patient Choice Scheme pilot was available in different parts of England and offered patients new ways of accessing GP services outside their GP practice's boundary area. 

As a result of this scheme, and following changes to GP contracts, all GP practices in England will be free to register new patients who live outside their practice boundary area from January 2015.

This means that you are able to join practices in more convenient locations, such as a practice near your work.

The idea is to provide you with greater choice and to improve the quality of GP services over time, as GPs providing a good service are naturally more popular. Use the Service near you facility to find out what people say about a GP practice.

These new arrangements are voluntary for GP practices. If the practice has no capacity at the time or feels it is not clinically appropriate or practical for you to be registered so far away from home then they can still refuse registration. The practice should explain their reason to you in detail.

What to consider when registering with a GP practice further away

You may wish to join a GP near work or remain registered with your old GP following a move. The new arrangements make this possible; however, there are a few things to consider.

Because of the greater distance to your home, the GP you register with is under no obligation to offer you a home visit. If you are not well enough to go to the practice yourself then other arrangements will have to be made. NHS England (the body responsible for buying GP services) has to ensure that you are able to access a service either near your home or at home. When you register with a practice away from home you will be given information about what you should do in those circumstances.

You should also read the sections about:

Outer practice boundaries

In 2012 all GP practices were asked to agree on an outer practice boundary with their primary care trust (now NHS England Area Teams).

Outer practice boundaries are an expansion of a GP's original catchment area. Whereas in the past you may have had to register with a new GP after moving a few streets further down the road, these outer boundaries can be a way to stay registered with your old GP.

You’ll still have to speak with your GP first and, if appropriate, the GP may keep you on the register.

For example, a GP may refuse to keep you on the register if you require frequent home visits but don’t live close to the GP practice. If the GP covers a large area and the travel distance to your home is too long to justify regular home visits then the GP can suggest that you register with a practice closer to your home. 

However, if the GP decides you can stay registered, then you will continue to receive the full range of services, including clinically necessary home visits.


The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Speedster99 said on 19 October 2014

Giving patients choice and making doctors accountable for the level of service they provide is key, thus why this scheme is a good idea.
With any service, a customer (the patient) should be given the choice of their service provider if they aren't being given the treatment they pay for (paid by the NHS).
I have a chronic condition and had a great doctor treating me since my diagnosis 3 years ago. I moved areas and registered with a new surgery last year and they are abysmal, they still haven't got my medical history and have done nothing to chase my records, their appointment service is terrible, I've had to go through several doctors in their surgery to find one who actually listens to a patients concerns.
If I didn't have to last year, I would have stayed registered and travelled the half hour train trip back to my old surgery, something I would manage even if terribly sick, knowing if be in good hands!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mouse 85 said on 14 August 2014

I have a really good Dr and am moving approx 11 miles which takes me outside catchment area. I am concerned that even though I work really close to him they may not keep me.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

User882937 said on 24 June 2014

Patient choices for GP services is an excellent idea. As where I live I have the choice of two GP's, and the service is dire; you might as well go to Homebase. Just across a main road. I can see another GP surgery (not allowed to register with at the moment) is this postcode lottery; has an excellent service.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

stanfred said on 06 June 2014

My wife and I are disabled and we need to change to a suitable GP surgery regarding access. We've been refused several because of Boundaries.I think that exceptions should be made for disabled patients to choose regardless of boundaries. In one instant she is already attending the clinic of one out of boundary surgery but has still been refused.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

User793692 said on 07 August 2013

I think it is wonderful to open up GP registration. There are some areas, especially in London, where all of the GPs in a catchment area have horrible ratings. Even more areas are without a single above average rating.

As soon as GPs can be chosen according to how good their service is and not according to the catchment area these practices will have to step it up to compete and overall that will lead to a better system.

I moved from an otherwise lovely area because the GPs were so badly rated.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

User760788 said on 14 April 2013

I am a GP in Tower Hamlets, one of the sites chosen for this pilot. What the Department of Health is not telling you is that two of the 6 sites above (Tower Hamlets and City and Hackney) have refused to take part in this pilot in order to protect the local health economy and services to our local population.

The proposed policy to abolish GP practice boundaries is deeply flawed, but the Department will not tell you that.

For more information, see

The above comment was posted 31/3/13; it was subsequently removed (understandably); what's the matter DH, afraid of the truth?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Page last reviewed: 16/09/2014

Next review due: 16/09/2016

Your choices in the NHS

Find out about the choices you can make to improve your health, from lifestyle choices to choosing a GP

Changing GP

Find out why Eleanor and her partner made the decision to change their GP and what helped them to make their final choice

What does patient choice mean to you?

People talk about choices they have made for their health, in their lifestyle, their NHS treatment and of NHS services.

Media last reviewed: 15/09/2014

Next review due: 15/09/2016