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The English health service – NHS and general practitioner (GP)

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NHS and GP (general practitioner); all there is to know about Healthcare in the UK

You have just moved to the UK, you have found a home, maybe even a job, you have a NIN (if you don’t have it yet, I invite you to take a look here). So now you’ve done that, but you still don’t know how healthcare works and what you need to do to get access to a GP.

Don’t worry, read on and you’ll have all the information you need about how to get a GP as quickly as possible and to understand how the NHS works.

The UK NHS, what it is and how it works

NHS stands for the National Health Service and is the health service of the United Kingdom.

Who can use it?… and what are the costs?… and what services are available on the NHS in the UK?

The service is available to all British and European citizens registered as patients on the NHS registry, ongoing or temporary (those who are in the country for more than 24 hours and less than 3 months)
NHS services are free for all those who are registered with the NHS.
Free services include; visits and consultations with a GP and first aid.
There is a charge however for dental treatment and eye care.
The NHS service is the same throughout the UK for all European citizens.

Now let’s look at what needs to be done to sign up for a GP and take advantage of all the services provided by the NHS.

Understanding what a GP is and how to choose one

GP is the term for a general practitioner in the United Kingdom.
In the past, by law, the patient’s choice of GP was restricted to their district of residence, but since January 2015, doctors have been free to accept patients living outside their area.

My advice to you is to follow the old procedure for convenience: if you feel ill you will want a GP near your home and not need to travel all over London.

To find your nearest NHS surgery, go to the NHS website, and in the GP selection section, use your postcode to access the list of available surgeries.

Alternatively, you can choose a GP according to the type of service you need.
Choose one based on proximity or even reviews: like most other things in the UK, doctors are evaluated based on the services they offer.

Traveling outside Europe; why you need to protect yourself

While the NHS gives you protection in the UK, remember that every time you travel abroad you must cover yourself with private insurance. A European citizen can receive free healthcare in European territory but in cases of hospitalization, he will have to anticipate and pay expenses and then request a refund. This is why I strongly suggest that have your own private health insurance.
Below are two of the best insurance companies in the world, Worldnomads and Columbus.

How to register with a GP

Now that you’ve found a GP that’s right for you, you need to sign up.
These are the documents needed to register with a GP and use NHS services:

  • GMS1: The form you need to fill out containing questions about your health and daily habits. You can take it directly from the surgery or download it and print it.
  • Identity document: ID card or, even better, passport: the latter is always preferable. In fact, the British tend not to accept our paper identity card.
  • Proof of Address: ie, confirmation/proof of your address in the United Kingdom. It may be a utility bill addressed to you or your rental agreement. If you are a guest in a friend’s house, you can ask them to write a letter confirming your address and accompany the letter with a copy of one of their ID documents.
  • Health card: the card is not strictly necessary, but is highly recommended to speed up processes, gain quicker access to services, and help the NHS to function more efficiently.

Once you have made sure you have all the necessary documents ready, make an appointment and give them to the receptionist at the surgery. After that, you will have to wait for confirmation of acceptance by the GP. This will arrive by post at the address you provided and you can then go for your first introductory appointment. This is very important because it allows your new doctor to meet you and learn about your medical history.

I hope I have clarified all your thoughts about the NHS and general practitioners in England, if you still have any concerns about your move to the UK, I invite you to consult our other articles and contact us with any questions or concerns. Alternatively, you can write a message in the comments section below.


In the meantime, Good luck!

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