Dr Liza Macdonald FRCR MA

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Finding or Changing a GP practice

  Getting The Best out of Your Doctor




Finding a GP


If you are not on a GPs patient list you will need to find a suitable practice either near where you live or some people prefer a GP near their work. It is probably best to join a large practice as there are likely to be more facilities available such as nurse-practitioner, district nurse, counsellor and pharmacy either onsite or close at hand. If you have children check that one or more of the doctors deals with child health. Check what arrangements are made for making appointments. It can be very frustrating if the only way to make urgent appointments is to hang on the phone line at nine in the morning. Check what the average waiting time is for routine appointments and if you are working or looking after children find out if there are evening or Saturday appointments available. These tend to fill up fast. Some GP appointments can be booked on the practice web site. The disadvantage of the larger practice is that you may rarely see the same doctor twice. The advantage is that the waiting time is likely to be less. That being said some smaller practices are able to offer a more personal service and this can be a greater priority for example for older patients.

Changing GP practice


Occasionally your experience of the service provided by an NHS GP practice is so unsatisfactory that you may decide to change to another practice. The Government has made provision for this and if necessary it can be done quite quickly. See the website: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1088.aspx?CategoryID=68&SubCategoryID=158

If you want to change your GP, visit the GP surgery you want to join and ask them to register you as a patient.
You don't have to tell your current GP that you want to change. However, if you do, it could speed up the process of transferring your medical records.
You don't have to tell the new GP surgery why you want to change, either.
You'll 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.

When you contact the new surgery to register with them they will usually ask you to complete a form called a GMS1 (PDF, 72kb), giving details such as:
  - your name and address
  - your date of birth
  - your NHS number (if you know it)
  - other information, such as the name and address of your previous GP
  - your views on organ donation

Some GP surgeries will also ask to see proof of your identity, for example:
photo identity, such as your passport or driving licence and some proof of your address such as a utility bill.

In the new system the surgery will send the GMS1 to your local NHS Commissioning Board. Your medical records will then be transferred to the new surgery.
It is worth knowing that you will be registered with the GP surgery, rather than any individual GP. If following the advice of friends and neighbours you prefer to see a specific GP, the surgery can note this in your records. However, be aware that you may have to wait longer to see your preferred GP and you may need to see someone else if your preferred GP is unavailable.

Sometimes, you may not be able to register with a particular GP surgery, for example if you live outside the area that the surgery covers, or the surgery is not accepting new patients. In that case you will need to find and register with another GP surgery in your area instead.

It is also worth knowing that if you are travelling within the UK and need to see a GP you can take out temporary registration. This means that if you want to see a GP and are visiting an area for more than 24 hours but less than three months, you can apply to register with a GP surgery as a temporary resident. The application can be made using form GMS3.

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