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Doctors - What They Should Do For You?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 1 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Consumer Rights Doctor Gp Practice Nhs

There's no way around it; every so often we all need to see the doctor, whether it's for something minor, something nagging, or something that might prove serious. Under the NHS, visits to your general practitioner are free, although you may have to pay for your prescriptions. But when you ring up to make an appointment, what should you expect from your GP?

Finding a GP

If you don't already have a doctor - a general practitioner - you should have one. You're free to approach a practice near where you live and apply to join their list of NHS patients. Applications to do so must be made in writing and forms are available from practices. New-born babies born in the UK can be registered at a practice by the parents or guardians.When you register as a patient at a GP practice, you may receive a NHS Medical Card. This is purely for NHS administrative purposes, and provides basic details such as a patient's name, address, NHS number, registered GP practice (or the name of an individual practitioner) and details of the local Primary Care Trust. If you're going to be in an area for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months, you can apply to a practice to be accepted as a temporary resident.

A practice may refuse an application to join its list of patients, if, for example, you don't live within the surgery's catchment area or it has formally closed its patient list. If this happens, then it must have reasonable grounds for doing so, which do not relate to race, gender, social class, age, religion, disability or medical condition, appearance, sexual orientation and it must give you in writing, reasons for its decision. You should then contact your Primary Care Trust, which will help you find a doctor. You have the right to change your doctor without giving a reason.

Your Doctor

Although you register with a specific doctor, chances are that at different times you may see another doctor in the same practice. Whoever you see can give you advice on things like smoking and diet, health education, run clinics, carry out simple surgical operations and give vaccinations.

The practice is essentially a team, with nurses, health visitors and midwives, as well as a range of other health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. If your GP can't deal with your problem himself, he'll usually refer you to a hospital for tests, treatment or to see a consultant.

If your condition is non-urgent, it is expected that you will be able to see a GP within two working days and you should be able to see a health professional such as a nurse within one working day. If you don't need an appointment within two working days, you also have the option to book in advance if this is more convenient for you.

You should normally only expect to see your doctor within surgery hours. Outside that, all doctors have an emergency service, but this is only for urgent medical problems that can't wait until the next day to be treated. If you're too ill to visit the surgery, a request for a home visit will be considered by the doctor and, if appropriate, an alternative offered.


If you have a complaint about your GP, you should first contact the person at the practice responsible for complaints. If that doesn't solve the issue, complain in writing to the Primary Care Trust. If you're still unhappy with the response to your complaint, you can ask the Healthcare Commission for an independent review of your case. Finally, if that doesn't bring a resolution, take your care to the Health Service Ombudsman.

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