How to register with a GP in England
This information page covers your rights to register with a GP in England, including:
- What is a GP
- Finding a GP
- How to register,
- Where to get help with filling in the form
- How long you need to live in your GP’s area,
- How to access maternity care,
- Who qualifies for free prescriptions
- What to do if a GP practice refuses to register you.
- A GP is a local family doctor. You need to register with a GP as soon as you can when you arrive in England so you can see the GP when you are sick.
You are entitled to register with a GP in England and receive NHS primary health care regardless of your immigration status. This includes women from abroad who currently have no leave to remain in the UK, either because your visa has expired or your asylum claim has been refused and there are no further appeals.
- Before you register, contact the GP surgery to confirm that it covers the address where you are living or staying temporarily. You can register with any GP in your local area as long as they have space for new patients. You can also get help by:
- Asking friends
- Asking at the library
- Asking local organisations such as schools, mosques, temples, and churches
- Asking a support worker
- Asking your housing case worker
- Looking on the NHS Choices website – www.nhs.uk
- Go to Ask to register at the GP reception. Show this leaflet and they will ask you to fill in a registration form. Ask for help with filling in the form if needed and return it to the GP reception.
- Local organisations that support asylum seekers, refugees and migrants may be able to help you fill in the GMS 1 form or local registration form.
If you can’t get help, tell the GP receptionist. Ask them to book an interpreter who can help you fill in the form so you can register.
- If you prefer, you can ask to see a female GP (if available). If not, ask the receptionist for a female chaperone.
- You can expect to be treated politely and with dignity.
- The GP and staff will expect you to treat them politely.
- You can ask for help if you feel they don’t understand your needs.
- You can ask to discuss your health issues and personal details in a quiet
and confidential place at the GP surgery.
- Your details should always be kept confidential and safe by the GP.
NB Primary healthcare includes health care provided by GPs (General Practitioners) dentists and opticians, pharmacists and NHS walk in clinics.
Are GP services free of charge?
Yes, all GP services are free of charge, regardless of your immigration status. You can visit your GP as often as you need and you will not be charged for GP services.
In addition, NHS guidelines state that ‘GP’s have a duty to provide emergency treatment or immediately necessary treatment free of charge, and 14 days of cover after such treatment is provided, even if the patient is not registered’. This applies to all migrants regardless of your immigration status.
All maternity care is considered to be immediately necessary treatment. However, most maternity care is provided at hospitals and some women who are classed as ‘overseas visitors’ may be chargeable for their maternity care.
You do not need ID documents or proof of address to register with a GP and a GP practice cannot refuse to register you if you do not have these documents. This is set out in the leaflet provided by the NHS entitled ‘How to register with a doctor (GP)’ which can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/registering-with-a-gp-outside-your-area/
However, you are likely to be asked for ID documents so if you have any proof of ID it is a good idea to take this along when you go to register. Documents that may be useful include HC2 certificates, a birth certificate, a biometric residence permit, an ARC card, a passport or a utility bill.
How long do I need to be living in the area before I can register with a GP?
The NHS guidance states that ‘a homeless patient cannot be refused registration on the basis of where they reside because they are not in settled accommodation. Those who are homeless, vulnerably housed or ‘of no fixed abode’, asylum seekers, refugees and overseas visitors, whether lawfully in the UK or not, are eligible to register with a GP practice’. Further information for those who are homeless or have no fixed address is set out in the NHS leaflet dealing with this group https://assets.nhs.uk/prod/documents/how-to-register-with-a-gp-homeless.pdf
Are there any reasons a GP practice can refuse to accept my registration?
NHS guidance states that an application to register with a GP cannot be refused on the grounds of race, gender, class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, diversity or medical condition.
A GP can normally only refuse to register a new patient if their waiting list is closed, if you live outside the GP practice’s catchment area ‘or the practice has other reasonable grounds, providing these do not relate to race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability, or a medical condition’.
What do I do if the GP refuses to register me?
If a GP refuses to register you because you do not have proof of address, or identification or because of your immigration status, you should ask the GP receptionist to provide you with the reasons for refusal in writing. It may help if you take the NHS leaflet with you when you first go to register. This can be downloaded at: https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Documents/how-to-register-with-a-gp-leaflet.pdf
If the GP practice still refuses to register you, ask a volunteer, friend or caseworker to liaise on your behalf with your NHS England office by sharing the completed form with them.
You can make a complaint
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org (for the attention of the complaints manager in subject line).
By post: NHS England, P.O. Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT.
By phone: 0300 311 2233 (Telephone Interpreter Service available).
For further information You may be able to get help and advice from your local Citizens Advice: www.citizensadvice.org.uk or
your local Healthwatch: 0300 068 3000 www.healthwatch.co.uk
To request the leaflet in other formats and languages call: 0300 311 2233 .
Doctors of the World Clinic Advice Line: 020 75157534 . This line is open from 10am – 12 midday, Monday to Friday. Outside of this time, please email: email@example.com www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk
Doctors of the World Clinic provide advice to individuals who are experiencing difficulties registering with a GP. More information on where to get advice can be found at: www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/call-our-advice-line
Do I need to pay for my prescription?
You will have to pay for any prescriptions unless you are entitled to free prescriptions. The following groups are entitled to free prescriptions:
- Aged 60 or over
- Aged under 16
- Aged 16-18 and in full-time education
- You are pregnant, or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and have a valid maternity exemption certificate. These are provided by your GP or midwife
- You hold a medical exemption certificate HC2 because they have a certain medical condition. These are listed on the website below.
For more information on who qualifies for free prescriptions can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/prescriptions-and-pharmacies/who-can-get-free-prescriptions/
If you have an HC2 certificate you will not need to pay for your prescriptions. For more information on HC2 certificate, https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-low-income-scheme/hc2-certificates-full-help-health-costs
Are services provided by the hospital free of charge?
Some groups of overseas visitors are chargeable for NHS care provided by hospitals. However, some services provided by hospitals are free of charge to everyone regardless of your immigration status. This includes A+E; treatment provided at minor injuries units; treatment for infectious diseases; including HIV; and family planning. Hospital treatment for any condition cause by torture, FGM, domestic or sexual violence is also exempt from charges.
Even if you are chargeable, treatment that is considered immediately necessary, which includes all forms of maternity care, can never be withheld if a woman cannot pay for the treatment up front. For more information on NHS care for overseas visitors see Maternity Action’s information sheets at: https://maternityaction.org.uk/charging-for-nhs-maternity-care/