Your local doctor (GP)
Local doctors are also known as general practitioners, GPs. They look after the health of people in their community and deal with patients' different health problems.
GPs provide services including:
- medical advice
- physical examinations
- diagnosis of symptoms
- prescribing medication
- health education
- simple surgical operations
- care for ongoing, longstanding or chronic conditions
What to expect in a GP practice
GPs usually work in a practice as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, a practice manager, receptionists and others, such as practice-based pharmacists. A practice also works 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 isn't serious, you can expect to see a doctor within a reasonable timescale. Waiting times depend on the size of the practice or if you want to see a particular GP.
It's important that you keep appointments. If you can't, tell the practice as soon as possible so they can give your appointment to another patient.
If you have communication problems, or you need more time to discuss issues with your doctor, you should be able to book a longer appointment.
Arranging an appointment with a particular doctor
You register with a practice, not as an individual doctor's patient. But you can ask for an appointment with a certain doctor, nurse or health professional in a practice. The practice will arrange this for planned appointments. But you might not see them when you want an urgent appointment.
If your GP can't deal with a problem, usually they'll refer you to a hospital for:
- to see a consultant with specialist knowledge
If you need medication, your doctor will write a prescription for you. You need to take the prescription to a pharmacist. Some GPs can send prescriptions to a local pharmacy. You can ask the surgery if this service is available.
For some medication, you may be able to collect a repeat prescription at an agreed time from your surgery, without seeing the GP.
If you have a disability, ask your GP and pharmacist about arranging to deliver the prescribed medication to you at home.
Registering with a doctor's surgery
Usually, in a practice, several GPs work together in a surgery, clinic or health centre. To see a GP in a practice, you need to register as a Health Service patient with the surgery.
To register with a practice, ask the receptionist if you live in the area the practice covers and if they accept new patients.
If your application is successful
If the practice is willing to accept you as a patient, you 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 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, the practice may refuse your application. If this happens, you should contact the Business Services Organisation and ask them to put your name on a doctor's list in your area.
If a practice won't accept you as a patient, they should give you reasons for their decision. They must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition.
Registering your baby
You need to fill in a GRO 4 Birth Registration Form. The General Registry Office will give you this when you register your baby's birth. Bring this form to the GP's surgery to register your baby as a patient.
If you are too ill or physically unable to go to the GP, you can ask for a doctor to visit you at home. Check details with the surgery to arrange a home visit.
Changing doctor's surgery
You have the right to change your doctor's practice without giving a reason. It is helpful to tell your current practice that you are leaving.
Complaining about your doctor
You can complain about your GP or GP practice.