Here people talk about:
registering with a GP
whether it’s possible to register with a specific GP
temporary registration if away from home
Registering with a GP
Everyone has the right to register with a GP if they live within the ‘catchment area’ and if the surgery has space for new patients. The ‘catchment area’ is the area that the GP covers. People can simply contact the local surgery and ask to register with them. Registering involves completing a form called a GMS1. It’s a straightforward form which asks for a person’s:
name and address
date of birth
NHS number (if known)
name and address of previous GP
views on organ donation
Some GP surgeries will also ask to see:
proof of (photo) identity, such as a passport
proof of address, such as a print-off of a recent mobile phone bill
Some people, such as visitors from abroad, may be asked to show their passport and visa to check that they’re entitled to full NHS treatment.
The GP surgery will send the form to the local NHS area team. A patient’s medical records will then be transferred to the new surgery. The process of registering is the same whether someone is a student or working.
Anyone over the age of 16 can register with a GP by themselves. People under 16 have to be registered by their parents or guardians, but it doesn’t have to be at the same surgery as them or the rest of the family. Aphra registered with a new GP when she went to university. She found the process quick and easy. Soon after moving back home again after university, she registered with her previous doctor. This was important to her because she’d had health problems before.
It took ten minutes to fill in the form and ten minutes to see a nurse afterwards. Aphra didn’t want to get ill unexpectedly and have no GP.
John moved around a few times. He was registered at university first, then back at home. Later he moved again and registered with a new surgery.
Generally patients are registered with the practice (surgery or health centre) rather than with a specific doctor. All patients are allocated a named GP. Some practices are keen that patients stick to their own doctor whenever possible, but some don’t mind who a patient sees. People who have a long-term condition are encouraged to form a relationship with one doctor.
If someone prefers to see a specific GP, the surgery can note this in their records. But they may have to wait longer to see their preferred doctor or see someone else if their preferred GP is unavailable.
Simon has arthritis and Crohn’s disease (a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut). It was important for him to have a GP that knew about these conditions and to see the same doctor whenever possible.
Continuity of care’ is important to anyone with a long-term condition. It means they don’t have to repeat their story to a different doctor each time.
When someone registers with a new surgery, they’ll often be invited to make an appointment for a health check within six months. Health checks are usually done by the practice nurse, who will ask the patient about their personal and family medical history. The nurse will also ensure that any vaccines (injections) and tests they need are up-to-date, and do some checks such as measuring blood pressure. Changing surgeries
There may be many reasons why a person chooses to change practices and they’re entitled to do so. They don’t have to tell their existing surgery of their intention to change. Changing practices involves visiting the new surgery and asking to register as a patient with them. Again, no one has to explain their reasons for changing. They’ll need to complete a registration form and a request will then be made to their old practice to transfer their files.
Auberon changed to another surgery because it was closer to college. He also liked that it was open 7 days a week from 8am to 9pm.
Winston couldn’t remember if he’d registered with a GP in every area he’d lived. If medical records were linked electronically across practices, changing surgeries could be easier.
The appointments Lucy had with her previous GP put her off registering. She also had no proof of her new address and found the receptionists unfriendly.
John lived in four different places over the last few years. He intended to register with a GP but put it off because he hardly ever needed to see one.
There was a bit of confusion when Sarah registered with a practice when she was doing her PhD. One local surgery was for students and closed over the holidays, and the other one was for everyone else. She registered with the second surgery but was surprised when they moved her back to the student’s surgery:
One surgery seemed reluctant to register students. Sarah wanted to be registered there, though, because she lived in the area all year round and preferred the doctors.
If someone wants to see a GP and is visiting an area for more than 24 hours but less than three months, they can apply to register with a surgery as a temporary resident using a form called a GMS3.
If a person plans to stay in the area for longer than three months, they can register with a local surgery permanently. Their NHS number will help with tracing their medical records as they move around.
When Sarah was home from university over the summer holidays, she needed to see the GP there. She’d been on antidepressants and felt more comfortable with the doctor at home than the one at university.
Sarah registered temporarily so she could see the doctor in the village. She registered permanently when she moved back home again for 2 years.
Registering as a temporary patient involves contacting the local practice. A surgery doesn’t have to accept anyone as a temporary patient, though they do have to offer emergency treatment.
Vinay had lower back pain for several weeks when he was home from university over the summer holidays. It was confusing knowing which GP he should see and he travelled back and forth for several months between his home and university doctors. Like Winston, he felt that shared online medical records might have made it easier to sort out his problem.
The GP in Vinay’s home town felt he should see the university GP. The GP there told him his records were still at home. It took months to find out what was wrong.
It can be hard to know how to access medical care if someone’s going to study outside the UK. In these situations, it’s best to make enquiries though the university, online, and by asking students already there.