Registering with a doctor: understanding your rights
Updated: Oct 23
People across the UK continue to experience problems registering with a doctor.
We explain your rights and what to do if you're refused the right to register with a doctor, using NHS guidelines.
Do I need proof of address to register with a doctor?
NHS guidelines state that you do not need proof of address, immigration status, ID or an NHS number to register with a doctor.
Some doctor surgeries may ask for supporting documentation. They might have a few reasons to do this:
It can help the surgery find or transfer your medical records from another practice.
It confirms that you live in the surgery's practice area if they do not accept patients from outside this area.
If you don't have a permanent address, you can still register using a temporary address or the address of the doctor's surgery.
Do I need identification to register with a doctor?
No, you do not have to provide an ID when registering with a doctor, but it can help.
Below is a list of documents that you can use as ID if you want to:
Biometric residence permit
What could stop me from being able to register at a doctor's surgery?
A doctor must explain why they refuse your request to register in writing.
The doctor has the right to refuse if:
The practice isn't currently accepting new patients.
The practice only accepts patients living within its practice area.
What to do if you're refused the right to register
There could be several reasons a doctor may refuse your registration. But they must explain why in writing within 14 days.
If you have problems registering with a doctor's surgery:
Call Healthwatch Reading: 0118 937 2295
Call the NHS England Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 22 33
Here are some ways that you can make a complaint:
Contact Healthwatch Reading, here.
By post: NHS England, P.O. Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT
By phone: NHS England: 0300 311 2233 (Telephone Interpreter Service available)
This information can be made available in alternative formats, such as easy-read or large print and may be available in alternative languages upon request. To receive this, contact 0300 311 2233 or send an email to NHS England.
I want to change my doctor's surgery. Do I have to give a reason?
No, you don't have to tell your practice why you want to change or your new one why you made that decision.
You'll need to fill in a registration form. A request will then be made to your current doctor to transfer your medical records to the new doctor's surgery.
Read more information on registering with a practice further away from your residence.
Registering as a temporary patient
You can register with a doctor's surgery as a temporary patient. You can register as a temporary resident with a doctor's surgery for up to three months. To register, you must fill out a temporary services form (GMS3) from doctor surgeries.
After three months, you must reapply to register as a temporary resident or become a permanent patient.
More information can be found by clicking here.
Accessing doctor's care as a student
If you become unwell or need other medical treatment when you're at home or not staying near your university doctor, you can contact your nearest practice to ask for treatment. You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that, you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient. You can also visit an NHS urgent treatment centre. You don't need an appointment, and you don't need to be registered. They can treat minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, and bruises. They aren't designed for treating long-term conditions or life-threatening problems.