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GP services for older people

Although your GP doesn’t need to be your first point of contact if you're feeling unwell, everyone should be registered with a GP. If you're not, you should register with a practice as soon as possible, even if you don't currently have any health problems.


What does a GP do?

Your General Practitioner (GP) can give you medical advice, treatment and prescribe medication.

Your GP can also refer you to other healthcare professionals to diagnose or treat specific aspects of your condition. For example, they may refer you to a chiropodist, for a hearing test, or to your local falls prevention service. These other health professionals may visit you at home or hold clinics at a local practice, health centre or hospital.

Your GP practice must allocate everyone a named, accountable GP. This GP will oversee your care and take responsibility for evaluating your current physical and psychological needs. Though this doesn’t mean the named GP is the only doctor at your practice who will or can provide care.


What services should I look for in a GP surgery?

If you're joining a new surgery, ask about the availability of services that may be important to you, such as:

  • how the appointment system works
  • how far in advance you can book a non-urgent appointment
  • extended opening hours
  • support for carers
  • availability of male and female GPs and nurses
  • wheelchair access
  • staff who speak languages other than English.

Some surgeries offer a 24-hour online service, which you can use to book appointments with a GP of your choice, cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view your summary care record. Speak to the receptionist to find out what online services your GP surgery offers and how to register for online access.

If you have difficulty finding a practice with space for new patients, contact NHS England – it's their responsibility to find a GP practice for you.


How do I register with a GP surgery?

You can register with a GP surgery over the phone, online or in person.

You don't need proof of ID to register with a GP, but you may find it helpful to have your passport or birth certificate handy while you're filling in your details.


What if I'm too ill to visit my GP?

If you can't visit your GP surgery for medical reasons, you can ask your GP to make a home visit. If possible, try to call your GP in the morning if you think you'll need a visit the same day. Your GP surgery should have accessible information explaining how to request a home visit.

If you need to see your GP but can't make it into the surgery, they must offer a home visit instead. They should factor in how urgent your condition is when arranging a home visit.

Your GP might also be able to give you advice through a telephone or video consultation as an alternative.


What if I'm not registered with a GP or I'm away from home?

You should always be able to see a GP if you need urgent attention. If you become ill while you're away from home or you haven't registered with a GP, you should contact the nearest surgery and ask them to see you.

If you'll be living away from your usual address for up to 3 months, you can register as a temporary patient at a local practice. You'll still be able to remain registered as a patient with the GP where you normally live.


What support can I get if I have a long-term condition?

If you have a long-term condition, your GP should help you understand and manage your own care. This may include drawing up a care plan to help you manage your condition on a day-to-day basis and recognise symptoms that you should report to your GP.

It may also include creating an 'information prescription'. This is a collection of information that your GP thinks is helpful to you at that time and will help you understand your condition, as well as ways to prevent any further complications. This can be done with the help of the NHS website, which helps you find reliable sources of information about your condition.

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Last updated: May 18 2023

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