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NHS general practitioners (GPs)

Patient choice of GP practices

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

This means that you are able to register with practices in more convenient locations, such as a practice near your work or closer to your children’s schools. This will provide you with 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 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 for refusing your registration to you.

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 that you want to register with a GP practice to ensure that 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 required). When you register with a practice away from home you will be given information about what you should do in those circumstances.

However, if you are too ill to attend the practice in person, or the practice is unable to help you over the phone, call NHS 111. The NHS 111 service will be able to 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.

You should also read the sections about:

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

cameron89 said on 05 August 2015

What good is it if the gp surgerys all say no to out of catchment area patients. Is there a list updated with practises allowing all patients?
All I see are practises able to take on new patients IF they are in the catchment area.

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DP80 said on 22 July 2015

This is good idea if it shall be practised by all GP. I spend my most of time at work and it is not convenient to go home for GP appointment as most of time goes in travelling. I prefer to use GP closer to my work.

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Piscean1991 said on 06 July 2015

I recently moved house and found that two GP surgeries were within a mile of my new house. One only has male GPs while the other has some female GPs.

Given that the medical problem I need to see a doctor about relates to my vagina, I wanted to register with the one which has female GPs (it's literally 0.5 miles away!). Nope, they won't register me. Turns out the only surgery which will accept me is the one which only has male GPs and, quite frankly, really poor surgery hours (8:30-10:30 every morning of the week and then 4:00-5:30pm four afternoons of the week) that will not fit around my working lifestyle. The working lifestyle that allows me to contribute my part towards paying for an NHS that I cannot even fully access!

I thought choice in the NHS would be about enabling people to see a GP of the same gender if needs be and outside their working hours if necessary. This has made me furious really about paying my tax and National Insurance.

How is it acceptable that an entire group of people in an area are unable to see a GP outside normal working hours? More to the point, how many women like myself in my area are putting up with sensitive medical problems which might potentially be serious simply because they cannot access a female GP? It's just utterly disgusting.

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Carbide said on 29 April 2015

I have just recently moved just outside the catchment aera of my gp by no more than a five minute walk when i notified the practice of a change of address i was told by a receptionist i must find another practice which i think is unfair as i have a number health issues they are familiar with i have been with practice a number years and now have to go through the whole process of explaining everthing again not to mention the fact of having to find a practice i will be happy with which is no mean feat .

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Tinks1 said on 22 April 2015

I have been registered with my current practice for 38 years. Recently due to personal circumstances I have had to leave my home and move to another property just outside the practices current boundary. I say current because the pract8ice originally included the village I now live in.
I informed my practice of my new address at which point they informed me that I would need to register with another GP.
The surgery where in my village is not rated highly and I do not wish to move.
I live in a semi detached house and my current neighbour is registered with my GP Surgery but they are stating they are not taking new patients from this area. I have pointed out that I am not a new patient but a very long standing patient who has had to move.

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User760788 said on 19 March 2015

I am a GP in Tower Hamlets. I think it is important that people thinking about registering with a GP practice away from where they live check carefully whether they will have in hours GP cover if they are ill at home and unable to travel to their registered practice. The cover throughout England is patchy. In London, there is no cover at all (at the time of writing this, 3/3/15).

I have written to Jeremy Hunt, the Department of Health, and NHS England so hopefully they will put this right.

Another issue: it is not a very good idea to register with a practice near your children's school, it will actually cause problems, so beware.

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chuchopereyra said on 06 March 2015

This idea can't never work: If patients are free to go out of boundaries of other practices, this would lead to a massive shift of patients relocating in areas where they not reside.
This, in turn, would cause some distortion in the system, specially in highly populated areas where some practices will be over-staffed and other ones obviously under-staffed. Ultimately, no one practice would agree with it as they don't want to see either their budget being affected by having to absorb a larger number of patients nor the bad practices being shut.
I think the government in their statutory obligation to provide health services need to have a reality check and listen to the opinion of patients, thereby improving the bad GP practices.

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helidave said on 29 January 2015

Sadly, the principle of Patient choice is wasted as most GPs seems to have opted out of it. I have tried several surgeries and they have all said that are "not participating" in the new service for out of boundary patients. One even went so far as to say that they did not know of a surgery that did participate. Once again, the NHS has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by making this voluntary.
I suggest that the web site be changed to only show GPs within boundary plus those who are operating the new system as at present, it offers false hope to those who choose a surgery listed, only to find that they are rejected.
I would stress that this is nothing to do with requiring home visits, on each occasion, I was asked where I lived and was told that it was out of boundary, even though in one case, it was one mile out of boundary.

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Acommuter said on 09 January 2015

I cannot find a way of knowing which practices offer this option to commuters into London like me. Is there not a list of participating practices? I've tried ringing a few practices, and none of them are registering patients outside their practice area. It is not listed on their websites.

Can't you make a list available? It would make life a lot easier for us. Or maybe I've missed something.

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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!

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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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Page last reviewed: 02/01/2015

Next review due: 02/01/2017

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Media last reviewed: 15/09/2014

Next review due: 15/09/2016