You are here:

NHS general practitioners (GPs) services

Patient choice of GP practices

Since January 5 2015, all GP practices in England have been free to register new patients who live outside their practice boundary area.

This means you can register with a GP practice somewhere that's more convenient for you, such as a practice near your work or closer to your children’s schools. This will give you greater choice and aims to improve the quality of access to GP services. Use the Services near you facility to find out what people say about a GP practice.

These 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, they can still refuse registration. The practice should explain to you their reason for refusing your registration.

How to register with a GP practice further away

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

  • Research your options in the area you want to register with, so you choose a practice that is right for you.
  • Compare GP surgeries according to facilities, services or performance before you decide. Ask friends, relatives and others you trust for their thoughts and recommendations.
  • Contact the practice and ask if it is accepting registrations from out-of-area patients.
  • If the practice is accepting registrations, ask for a registration form.

The practice will decide, following a review of your completed registration form, whether to accept you as a regular patient or accept you without home visiting duties (if it is clinically appropriate and practical for you to be registered away from home). 

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 be made. NHS England (the body responsible for buying GP services) ensures that there is access to a service either near your home or at home (if needed). When you register with a practice further away from home, you will be given information about what you should do in those circumstances.

However, if you are too ill to go to the practice in person, or the practice is unable to help you over the phone, call NHS 111. The NHS 111 service can tell you about access to local services or, where necessary, arrange a home visit.

Registering with a practice further away from home can affect decisions about referrals for hospital tests and treatment, or access to community health services. Speak to the GP about your options.

Outer practice boundaries

In 2012, all GP practices were asked to agree an outer practice boundary. 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 even after only moving a few streets away, 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 need 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.


Page last reviewed: 13/01/2016

Next review due: 13/01/2018

Media last reviewed:

Next review due: