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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 a new way of registering with a GP practice.

From October 2014, this Choice of GP practice scheme will be introduced throughout England. This means, as long as the GP practice is participating in the scheme, you then have the right to register with a practice that is most convenient for you – such as a practice near your workplace.

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. 


Joining a GP near your work may be more convenient, however, if you are ill at home the GP is under no obligation to carry out house visits like a GP in your area would be. Under the new rules, NHS England becomes responsible for organising home visits to out-of-area patients.

You should also read the section 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 home. 

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

For more information read the Choice of GP practice guidance on the Department of Health website.


The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Page last reviewed: 12/02/2014

Next review due: 12/02/2016

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