Your local doctor (GP)
Your local doctor, also known as a general practitioner (GP), provides a wide range of services including advice on health problems, physical examinations, diagnosis of symptoms, the prescribing of medication and other treatments.
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 surgery, talk to the receptionist who can tell you whether you live in the area the surgery 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 surgery 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 surgery.
If your application is refused
If you live over a certain distance away from a surgery, or if it has closed its patient list, your application may be refused. If this happens, contact your local Health Board, which should be able to find you a new doctor's surgery.
The surgery that refused to accept you should give you 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.
- Registering and naming your baby (government, citizens and rights section)
- GRO 4 Birth Registration Form (PDF 23 KB)
- Help with PDF files
What service you can expect
If your condition is non-urgent, you can expect to see a doctor within two working days, although waiting times will depend upon the size of the practice. It is essential that you keep appointments and if you can't that you give your GP at least one day's notice. 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.
Your doctor will usually be supported by a team of nurses, health visitors and midwives, as well as other specialists, including physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
- Who's who in health (people with disabilities section)
- Community nurses and health visitors (people with disabilities section)
Getting specialised treatment and equipment
Your doctor can supply you with treatment and/or equipment depending on your requirements. A GP can also refer you to specialist services in a hospital or another community setting. Some arrangements may be important to sort out before going to see your doctor for an appointment. For example, if you are deaf or have a hearing impairment, arrangements can be made for a sign language interpreter to be present.
- communications aids
- hearing aids
- partial sight - low vision aids
- walking aids
- health equipment and aids (people with disabilities section)
If you are too ill or physically unable to attend your 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 surgery without giving a reason.
The process of finding a new doctor is similar to registering.
However, it would be extremely helpful - for administrative purposes - to notify your current surgery that you are leaving.
If you need medication your doctor will write a prescription for you to take to the pharmacist.
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.
Complaining about your doctor
If you wish to make a complaint about the care or service provided by your doctor or doctors' surgery, contact the person at your surgery responsible for the practice complaints procedure. You can also follow the complaints procedure outlined at the link below:
Additionally, you may wish to contact the NI Commissioner for Complaints.