You are here

GP mythbuster 61: Patient registration

  • Organisations we regulate

The registered list of patients and the generalist approach to care are key strengths of UK general practice.

We are often asked how we assess if a practice is responsive to needs of its population. GP practices should be proactive in understanding the needs of different groups of people and deliver care to meet their needs. General practice can play an active role to improve population health. This is considered in our responsive key question.

Anyone may register and consult with a GP without charge. This is regardless of nationality and residential status.

The NHS Constitution sets out:

  • the right for members of the public to choose their GP practice, unless there are reasonable grounds for the practice to refuse, and
  • the right to express a preference for using a particular doctor within their practice  and for the practice to try and comply.

What does this mean for practices?

The General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) has published guidance on patient registration. It clarifies what is needed of practices in England to meet their contractual obligations.

NHS England published the process for registering patients before their release from prison or secure units. This includes prisons, young offender institutions and immigration removal centres. The process is to simplify registering individuals when they transition back in to the community. It is to improve patient information and avoid gaps in necessary treatment.

There is an expectation practices will facilitate these registrations. It is expected that these patients are treated no differently to other patients registering with a practice.

What do we look at when we inspect practices?

The BMA’s guidance informs our judgment on how responsive a practice is and whether it is organised to meet people’s needs.

We expect practices to meet their duties, providing emergency and immediately necessary treatment. When a patient does not need this, practices only have limited discretion about whether to register the person.

Practices may only decline registration if they have reasonable grounds to do so. These grounds must not be related to an applicant's:

  • race
  • gender
  • social class
  • age
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • appearance
  • disability or medical condition.

Practices should not refuse registration if proof of identity, immigration status or address cannot be produced. Reasons for any refusal of patients from these groups should be recorded.

Our key line of enquiry R2 looks at how well services take into account of the needs of different people. This includes those in vulnerable circumstances. For example gypsies, travellers, vulnerable migrants and sex workers.

GP practices provide care to their local population, including the most vulnerable in our society. Practices are in a key position to tackle health inequalities. It is essential vulnerable and social excluded groups of people can access good quality health care. This starts with being able to register with a GP.

Last updated:
08 November 2021