Going to the doctor’s is not always a pleasant situation for many, but if you plan on living in the UK for a time, whether it’s for work, study, or even just as an expat, it’s generally a good idea to register with a GP within the first few weeks of arriving, rather than wait until you’re ill or have an accident.
Of course, if you have a chronic condition that requires looking after with medication and tests, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and other issues, you would do well to register with a GP as soon as humanly possible, even if you’ve brought an extra supply of medication with you to tide you over.
How To Register
The basic process is simple:
- Go online and look for GP’s in your area. But don’t just stop with online searches. Use the old-fashioned ‘word-of-mouth’ method and ask people you know to make recommendations. Once you’ve found a GP that fits your needs, and is taking patients, it’s time for step 2: actual registratrion.
- When registering with a GP, you can either download the registration form from the NHS site, or you may complete the form right there at the practice. Keep in mind that you’ll want to aim for a GP who serves your area, or else they may not take you on. They are not allowed, however, to turn you away based on the usual discriminations, such as race, sexual orientation, gender, creed, or even medical condition, and they must present their refusal reasons in writing.
- When registering as a brand new patient—that is, you do not have an NHS number yet—you will simply need your passport and one or two types of ‘proof of address,’ such as a tenancy agreement or a utility bill. You will receive your NHS number in the post sometime after you’ve registered.
You might be surprised to learn that the NHS in England no longer gives out physical cards, but rather, you’ll simply receive the number in a letter from your GP, who will have the number on file in case you happen to lose it.
- It’s not only ideal to register with a GP close to home, but if you need a prescription, it’s ideal to locate a chemist as close to home as possible. This way, you can retrieve much-needed medicines and prescriptions quickly. Also, many smaller chemists are being replaced by larger companies that also sell items such as makeup and other toiletries, so you might end up using this option.
- Many people from the States might confuse the NHS number with the National Insurance number. This confusion is understandable, due to the differences between the UK and US concerning medical care and governmental benefits and taxes. Once you come to grips with these differences, though, you’ll be fine.
- If you are ill or injured and can’t get in to see your GP, or simply don’t have a GP yet, you can call 111 any time of day, any time of year, and you’ll be put in touch with trained nurses and paramedics who will assess any symptoms you give them, and direct you to the type of service they think will best help you, based on those symptoms. This way, people aren’t going directly to A&E (accident and emergency) departments of hospitals when it’s not necessary. That said, if you call 111, and the professionals determine you need an ambulance, they will arrange for one to be sent to your location.
This is just an overview of how to go to the doctor’s in London, as your GP is the main gateway, as it were, to other medical services. Just be sure to not only have your proof of address and passport (to prove identity), but also, do your research in order to get the best care possible.