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's a long way from where you live
Since January 2015 all GP practices in England have been free to register new patients who live outside their practice boundary area.
But it's for a practice to decide at the point of registration whether it's clinically appropriate and practical to register individual patients in that way.
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:
- have moved into a new area
- have moved outside the catchment area of their current practice
- experienced problems in their relationship with the current practice
- were removed from the patient list
You can change practices without having to give a reason. But it's helpful to tell the practice you're 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 GMS1registration form (PDF, 156kb) is available at the practice, or you can download it from GOV.UK.
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.
If you're registering a child under 5, you'll have the option of registering them for the Child Health Promotion Programme.
This means your child will be invited for regular health and development checks. Ask the practice for more details.
If you have no proof of address or identification
Some GP practices may ask for proof of identity when you register, especially when you register children in your care.
This may be used to check your details match with the information held on the NHS central patient registry and that your previous medical notes are passed on to the new practice.
You should not be refused registration or appointments because you do not have a proof of address or personal identification at hand.
It's not considered a reasonable ground to refuse registration.
This also applies if you're an asylum seeker, refugee, homeless patient or overseas visitor, whether lawfully in the UK or not.
If you fall under one of the above mentioned patient groups, download one of the "How to register with a GP" patient leaflets below and bring it with you when you register with a GP practice.
If you have problems registering with the practice, there's advice on what do to and where to go for further support.
How to register with a GP under the Mental Capacity Act
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is designed to protect and empower individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment.
It's a law that applies to individuals aged 16 and over.
The MCA also allows people to express their preferences for care and treatment in case they lack capacity to make these decisions.
It also allows them to appoint a trusted person to make a decision on their behalf should they lack capacity in the future.
If a person lacks the capacity to register with a GP themselves, this can be done on the patient's behalf through:
- a relative
- the main carer
- a lasting power of attorney
- a person appointed by a court under the Mental Capacity Act
Once registered with a GP practice, the GP becomes the decision maker and will make a continuous assessment of someone's capacity through the Mental Capacity Act.
Patients should also be provided with an independent advocate who will support them to make decisions in certain situations, such as serious treatment or where the individual might have significant restrictions placed on their freedom and rights in their best interests.
How to register as a homeless patient
If you're homeless, you're 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) has its own GP services that look after serving personnel, mobilised reservists and some families.
Once you leave the armed forces, your primary healthcare (GP, dentist, etc) reverts to the responsibility of your local NHS. This means you'll have to register with a local GP in your area.
Make sure you let the GP practice know that you're a veteran. 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. 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 be given 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, 919kb).
Information for those moving to or visiting England
You do not need to be ordinarily resident in England to access GP services without charge.
But charges may arise if you need a hospital referral or other specialist treatment.
How to register as a temporary resident
If you fall ill while away from home or you're not registered with a GP but 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'll have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.
Registration as a temporary resident allows you to be taken on to the practice's list for up to 3 months.
If you're registered with a practice but are away from your home area, you can register temporarily with a practice near where you're 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
- details of any medicines you're currently taking
- details of any allergies
- contact details of your registered or previous practice
Page last reviewed: 21 March 2019
Next review due: 21 March 2022