Accessing primary care

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One of the common themes that you will have encountered in our pages on homeless healthcare, migrant health, and Gypsy and Traveller health, is that all marginalised groups struggle to access primary care.

If we think about being a patient, how do we access primary care?

1. Finding a GP

When moving to an area, patients will most likely use google and word of mouth to identify a local surgery.

2. Registration

Once a patient has found a GP surgery, they will ring up, or more likely attend in person, to register. It’s important to realise that every contact and encounter at this stage is incredibly important and can be the difference between someone accessing care or not.

“Anybody in England may register and consult with a GP without charge” - NHSE Guidance

Reading NHSE guidance on registration allow us to debunk some registration myths.


  1. You have to have ID to register - No. It is fine to ask patients for ID when they come to register, but if they say they don’t have any, you should register them anyway

  2. You need proof of address to register - Again, nope. The guidance is quite clear that patients don’t need this. If a patient can’t or won’t give you proof of their address, register them under another address that can handle their medical correspondence, perhaps the surgery or another organisation such as a church or community centre the patient knows

  3. You should ask questions about immigration status - Absolutely not, this is irrelevant. Whilst patients may sometimes be charged for hospital services, NHSE guidance states that “anybody in England may register and consult with a GP without charge”.

  4. Patients have to complete the GMS1 supplementary questions - No, no, thrice no. The GMS1 registration form has some questions on the back about immigration status. patients SHOULD NOT be expected to complete this section

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Also, consider cultural awareness training for surgery staff if you have a prevalence of a particular cultural group e.g. Gypsy and Traveller patients

Further resources