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Your local doctor (GP)

Local doctors, also known as general practitioners (GPs), look after the health of people in their local community and deal with a whole range of health problems.

GP services

GPs provide a range of services including:

  • medical advice
  • physical examinations
  • diagnosis of symptoms
  • prescribing of medication
  • health education
  • giving vaccinations
  • carrying out simple surgical operations.
  • providing ongoing care for more longstanding or chronic conditions

What to expect from your GP practice

GPs usually work in practices as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, practice managers, receptionists and other staff. Practices also work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as health visitors, midwives, and social services.

Your practice should be able to offer you an appointment to see a GP or other healthcare professional quickly if necessary.

If your condition is non-urgent, you can expect to see a doctor within a reasonable timescale, although waiting times will depend upon the size of the practice or if you wanst to be seen by a particular GP. It is important that you keep appointments, if you can't you should notify the practice as soon as possible to allow your appointment to be re-allocated. If you have communication difficulties, or if you think you need more time to discuss issues with your doctor, you should be able to book a longer appointment.

If your GP cannot deal with a problem then you’ll usually be referred to a hospital for tests, treatment, or to see a consultant with specialist knowledge.

Getting prescriptions

If you need medication your doctor will write a prescription for you to take to the pharmacist, some GPs will on request, send your prescription to a local pharmacy.

Depending on your medication, you may be able to collect a repeat prescription at a pre-arranged time from your surgery - without having to see your doctor.

If you have a disability, prescriptions can be filled and delivered to your door by arrangement between your doctor and your pharmacist.

Registering with a doctor's surgery

Usually a small group of GPs work together in a practice, often referred to as a surgery, clinic or health centre. Once you've chosen a doctor's surgery, you'll need to register with it as a Health Service patient. To register with a practice talk to the receptionist who can tell you whether you live in the area the practice covers and whether it is taking on new patients. You no longer need to register with an individual doctor; instead you can choose which doctor, nurse or health professional you wish to see, without giving a reason.

If your application is successful

If the practice is willing to accept you as a patient, you'll need to bring your medical card and fill in a registration form (HS100), or for people from outside of UK or people who have been out of the UK for more than a year (HS22X) which the receptionist will give to you.

Your medical records will then be transferred to your new practice.

If your application is refused

If you live over a certain distance away from a practice, or if it has closed its patient list, your application may be refused. If this happens, you should contact the Business Services Organisation, and it will provide you with details of GP practices in your area. A practice which refuses to accept you as a patient should give you the reasons for the decision. It must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition.

Registering your baby

You will need to fill in a GRO 4 Birth Registration Form, which you receive from the General Registry Office when you register your baby's birth, and take it to your doctor's surgery.

Home visits

If you are too ill or physically unable to attend your practice surgery, arrangements can be made for a doctor to visit you at home.

This may be the case if you have a disability and are housebound.

Check details with your surgery.

Changing doctor's surgery

You have the right to change your doctor's practice without giving a reason. However, it is helpful - for administrative purposes - to notify your current practice that you are leaving.

The process of finding a new doctor is similar to registering.

Complaining about your doctor

If you wish to make a complaint about the care or service provided by your GP or GP practice, contact the person at your practice responsible for the practice complaints procedure.

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