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Changing to a new GP practice

Lesley Dobson / 14 October 2020

Since January 2015, every GP practice in England has the right to take on new patients beyond their previous boundary. So, should you change your GP?

Ask friends and family if they would recommend a particular GP
Ask friends and family if they would recommend a particular GP

Up until quite recently, we had little choice about which GP practice we went to – we had to live within a practice boundary’s area. If we wanted to register with another practice, but were out of their area, there was nothing we could do about it.

This changed in January 2015, when every GP practice in England was given the right to take on new patients beyond their previous boundary. So if there’s a GP practice that offers services that would be particularly helpful to you, or is closer to where you work or volunteer, you can apply to register with them.

How to make the most of your visit to the GP

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Pros and cons of moving GP practice

Before you decide to apply to be registered at a different GP’s practice, think about the pros and cons of moving.

  • Ask friends and family who live locally whether they would recommend their GP practice and why. Remember to also ask if they are unhappy with their current practice, and why.
  • Ask friends and family if they would recommend a particular GP, but bear in mind that if you are able to change to a different practice you may not have a say in which GP’s list you are assigned to.
  • Find out what other GP surgeries offer, and whether they have a GP who specialises in a particular condition that you have.
  • Ask whether the surgery runs any specialist clinics for particular conditions, such as asthma, cardiology (heart problems), counselling, diabetes, minor surgery, and women’s health.
  • It may be worth visiting the GP practices you’re interested in, to see them first hand, and find out about local parking, bus services, etc. You could talk to the receptionists about whether the practice has space to accept out-of-area patients, and if not, how long the waiting list is. You can ask for a registration form while you’re there.
  • Bear in mind that if you do change to a different practice, and your home is further away from your GP’s surgery, they don’t have to offer you a home visit. However, your new practice should give you details about what to do if you need a home visit.

If you’re in a situation where you aren’t well enough to get to the practice, and you need help, you can call NHS111, they should be able to give advice. However, if you or someone with you is seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention, you should call 999.

Five ways to get a GP appointment today

What if the GP practice turns you down?

Don’t assume that you will automatically be accepted by the GP practice of your choice. The practice may be full, and not able to take on any new patients, or may decide that they should not take you on as a patient, given your health needs, and/or distance from them.

If the practice you’ve applied to register with, doesn’t accept your application to register with them, they should give you an explanation for their decision.

Changing GP can affect other aspects of your healthcare too

IIf you decide to register with a GP practice that is some distance from your home, bear in mind that this won’t only affect where you go to see your GP, it can also affect other aspects of your health care. These can include which hospitals you are referred to for tests and any hospital-based treatment, as well as health services based in the community. Ask your GP to explain how this may affect your healthcare.

GPs and Covid 19

While Covid 19 is still affecting the UK and other countries, it may be better to stay with the surgery that you are currently registered with, as they will have your records available. Any appointment you make will probably be carried out over the phone, or by video, if you have a computer. The doctors at your surgery should be able to give you advice, and deal with repeat prescription requests.

If you have worrying symptoms, such as being short of breath, having a high temperature that won’t go away, and a terrible headache that has suddenly appeared, contact your GP by phone as soon as possible.

Who else is on your healthcare team?

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.