Registering with your GP: understanding your rights

December 9, 2022


We have heard from people who have experienced problems registering with a GP.

This article explains more about your rights, how to register and what do to if you are refused the right to register.

We have pulled together some answers to help you understand your rights when registering with your GP using NHS guidelines.


Registering with a GP practice

Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register.

Find a GP that suits what you need.

Some GP surgeries offer more services than others. You can look up GP surgeries to see what they offer and how they compare.

You might be able to register with a GP surgery that’s not in the area you live. Find out about registering with a GP surgery out of your area


Do I need a proof of address to register with my GP?

NHS guidelines say:

“Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register.

You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

You don’t need tohave proof of address when registering with a GP.

This also applies if you are an asylum seeker, refugee, a homeless patient or an overseas visitor – whether lawfully in the UK or not.

If you’re homeless, you can give a temporary address, such as a friend’s address, a day centre or the GP surgery address.


Do I need ID to register with my GP?

NHS Guidelines indicate that you do not have to provide ID when registering with a GP, but it can help. Below is a list of documents that you can use as ID:

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Biometric residence permit
  • Travel document
  • HC2 certificate
  • Application registration card (ARC) card
  • Utility bill


What could stop me from being able to register at my GP?

A GP practice must explain the reason for refusing your request to register in writing. The practice has the right to refuse if the following criteria are met:

  • The practice cannot take on new patients
  • The practice is not accepting patients that do not live within its practice boundary
  • You have been removed from that GP surgery register before
  • It may not be appropriate for you to register with a practice that is a long way from where you live

More information on reasons you may not be able to register are set out here.


What to do if you are refused the right to register?

Ask the GP receptionist to write to you with the reason why they cannot register you.

If the GP already has too many patients, they can refuse to register you, but they must explain this in writing.


If you have problems registering with a GP surgery:

Call the NHS England Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 22 33

Contact Healthwatch East Sussex through our Information and Signposting Services for help and advice via: or on 0333 101 4007


I want to change my GP practice; do I have to give a reason?

No, you don’t have to tell your current practice why you want to change or your new one why you made that decision.

You will need to fill in a registration form. A request will then be made to your current GP for your medical records to be transferred to the new GP surgery.

Read more information on how to register in practices further away from your residence.


Using a GP surgery you’re not registered with

If you are not registered with a GP you will be unable to see one unless you have a serious emergency. In most other cases, calling NHS 111 is a better option.

If you are not registered with a GP but need treatment at a GP surgery you will need to complete a temporary registration form.

You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.

Find out how to register as a temporary resident with a GP


How else can I access urgent medical support?

You can also visit an NHS urgent treatment centre, which can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes.

However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or life-threatening problems. You do not need an appointment and you do not need to be registered.

If you have registered at a new GP practice whilst at university and become unwell when you’re at home or not staying near your university GP, you can contact your nearest practice for treatment.


Can you register with a GP surgery outside the area you live?

You do not need to register with a GP surgery in the area you live.

You can register with a surgery that’s more convenient, for example, closer to your work or your children’s school.

The GP surgery can refuse registration for reasons such as they are not taking new patients or it’s too far away from your home and you need home visits.

Find out more about registering with a GP outside of your area.


More information

Are you an asylum seeker, refugee, a homeless patient or an overseas visitor, whether lawfully in the UK or not?

Download these leaflets and be more aware of your rights to register with your GP.

Leaflet for asylum seekers and refugees

Leaflet for Gypsy, Travellers, and Roma communities

Leaflet for homeless people

Information for overseas visitors about using the NHS


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