Guide to GP services, GP registration and UK healthcare

Thank you for registering or considering to register at our practice! We often find we get lots of questions about the registration process and GP services, especially from patients who have never had a UK GP before. Here is our guide about the registration process and getting the best from your GP services.

What is UK General Practice?

UK National Health Service (NHS) healthcare is classified into primary care services and secondary care services. Primary care services, of which UK General practice is the largest component, includes all the services which operate outside of a hospital setting. Secondary care services include all hospital care such as Emergency Medicine departments and hospital inpatient care.

General practice is responsible for approximately 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS. On any given day, UK GPs will see over 1.3 million patients across England.

When you register with a UK GP practice, the practice is taking you on as a patient and will be the main contact for your medical care.

GPs are experienced doctors who have completed at least 10 years of medical training before qualifying. GPs assess patients, offer treatments, carry out testing, and can refer to specialists for further care. GPs have training and experience in all aspects of medicine, which also includes all medical and surgical areas, as well as children’s health, women’s health etc. As a result, we are often described as providing care “from cradle to the grave”, and GPs are often called “family doctors”.

GP practices are not the appropriate place for emergencies, such as major accidents, heart attacks and so on, this should be managed directly within an Accident & Emergency department in a hospital.

What happens after I register with a UK GP?

Once the practice receives your registration form, either online or in paper, the practice can identify you on the NHS central database and then add you on as a patient.

If you have never had an NHS GP before, your details will be created on the NHS central database.

We will normally send out a text message to confirm your registration has completed, and if you registered online, we will reply via the online system to your email as well. If you do not provide a phone number or email address, you may not be able to receive notifications about your registration.

How quickly will I become registered with the practice?

Our turnaround time is approximately 3 working days for most standard registrations. However, we do experience very high volumes of registrations in the September university intake and sometimes, the January intake. Around the Christmas holidays things can slow down as well. Our registrations at these points in time can take up to 14 working days.

If the registration form is incomplete or we need further information, this can slow down the registration process.

Who can register with an NHS GP?

Anyone and everyone can and should register with a local NHS GP.

NHS GPs are free to register with and provide cover for you in case you need to see a doctor or healthcare professional. You do not need to use our services to be registered with our GP Practice.

GP practices do have boundary areas for registrations. GPs only normally register patients if they live within the area for a particular practice.

If you live inside the GP practice area then you cannot be refused registration unless there is a particular reason, for example

  • you have previously been given warnings about your behaviour, or due to abuse or violence to staff at the GP practice in the past
  • you are a nursing or care home patient and there are local agreements to which practice will provide care to that home
  • the practice has closed its list to new registrations due to a limit in their capacity

We do not check immigration status

If you are homeless, you can register with any GP practice that is convenient for you, although we would always recommend homeless patients to register with a practice that deals specifically with homeless patients as they have a lot of experience and services that cater specifically to your needs. Our admin team can help find one locally that may be more suitable.

Do I need to pay money for registering with a GP? How much should I expect to pay for medicines?

All NHS GP services are free. This means the registering process is free, the care we provide is free.

The GP service is free no matter how often you use the services, although of course we do expect patients use the service responsibly! Contacting and seeing our doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff is free. Getting tests such as blood tests, health checks etc is free.

Depending on your situation, if you obtain prescribed medication at the pharmacy, this is currently charged at a flat rate of £9.65 per item (no matter how expensive the medicine is), but there are numerous exemptions to this which can make the medications free. If you do pay a lot for medication charges then you could consider paying a subscription for unlimited medications called a “Prepayment prescription card”.

More details about this can be found on the NHS website: Prescriptions and pharmacies – NHS (

GPs will also sometimes be asked to provide non-NHS services by patients. This could for example, include filling in an insurance form, or for providing vaccines for travel abroad on holiday. These are private works and do come with a charge. The doctor will always agree a fee with the patient before undertaking such a work.

Do I need to pay for hospital or specialist care?

GPs often refer patients to hospitals for further specialist assessment or sometimes care is needed in an emergency as well. The cost of hospital treatment is free for most UK residents (this includes any student or visitor who have paid the NHS health Surcharge). EU and EEA visitors are eligible for free NHS care providing they have a valid EHIC card.

There are some areas of medical treatment which are always free, no matter if this care occurs in GP practices or in hospitals, and no matter if you are a resident or a visitor to the UK, for example Sexual health and family planning (contraception) services.

Lifesaving emergency care is always free.

What is an NHS number and how do I receive one?

Your NHS number is the unique identifying number that is used to identify you for all NHS services, whether in the GP, hospital or any other NHS clinical service. The number is 10 digits and looks something like

123 456 7890

You do not need to know your NHS number or have it available if you want to access NHS services – most services can identify you though your name, date of birth, sex, address.

NHS numbers are generated on the NHS England database when you first come into contact with an NHS service – for most people this will be your first registration with a GP. Please note the GP does not make the number, but rather applies to NHS England on your behalf to create one. Therefore, if you have previously registered with a UK GP, you will likely have an NHS number already.

We are noting a lot of international students who have had to pay the NHS Health surcharge already have an NHS number by the time they arrive in the UK.

If you do not have an NHS number already then, the application process for NHS England is about 10-14 working days.

For most cases, NHS England will send out a small NHS card which contains your NHS number the first time you register with a GP. This is a small piece of paper which is posted to your registered address. Please note this is done through NHS England and not the GP practice. Sometimes the card does not arrive to the intended person, as the service depends on the postal service, and these letters can often get lost in shared accommodation such as large blocks of flats, student halls etc. The NHS card is not in any way related to your NHS care; it is purely information about your NHS number.

If you wish to obtain your NHS number, the NHS app is recommended to allow you direct access to your patient information such as your NHS number. It links directly with your GP medical records, and can allow you to manage your care online, for example by allowing you to order prescriptions, review your medical records. We are even in the process of introducing appointment booking through the NHS app.

What kind of services does the GP offer?

Your GP offers the first point of call for the majority of health queries that cannot be self managed. GPs also spend a lot of time offering preventative treatments such as vaccinations, health checks and checks for long term conditions such as diabetes and asthma. We also offer screening for things like cervical cancer, bowel cancer.

GPs will also often offer some specialist services which may vary from GP practice to GP practice. Our practice, for example, offers additional expertise in

  • Family planning and contraception including coils and implants,
  • Dermatology
  • Joint injections and Musculoskeletal problems

What services does the GP NOT cover?

We do not deal with dental problems and most eyecare is dealt with by opticians or optometrists. NHS dentistry is currently undergoing significant challenges. If you need to find an NHS dentist please check the following:

How to find an NHS dentist – NHS (

Please do not contact us about dental problems, we cannot help you register with a dentist nor can we manage dental problems.

For eyecare, such as getting glasses, contact lenses and so on, we would recommend contacting local opticians or optometrists.

Are there any other healthcare providers that can offer help?

A lot of minor ailments can be safely managed by the local pharmacist or even by yourself. Simple rashes, sore throats, diarrhoea for example.

NHS 111 is a 24 hour service which provides telephone advice to anyone. The call operators offer advice on where to go and which service to see.

Choose the right NHS service for your healthcare needs

What happens when I need healthcare when the practice is not open?

GP practices have a core opening hours of 8am – 6:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Outside of these core hours, there are out of hours providers of care – the OOH services are run in our local area by GoToDoc. To access these, please contact 111. Please note that OOH services do not have access to your medical records.

I have changed my contact details, or I am leaving the country or the area, will I need to tell the practice I no longer need to be registered?

If you have changed your address or phone number, please do contact us and we can amend these details on the system. You can update these by emailing our practice or contacting us through our website, or just popping in and letting our reception team know.

Patients who register with another GP, for example because they have moved out of the area will automatically de-register with their current GP as they register with their new GP.

If you are leaving the country, you do not need to let us know. Patients who leave the country will be removed automatically by NHS England on a regular basis.

How is the GP service monitored and quality assured?

All GP practices are registered with the Care Quality Commission, which is an organisation that monitors all hospitals and primary care services in England. The CQC primarily deals with the practice quality, including outcomes for patients, practice organisation, leadership and so on. Our latest CQC monitoring was rated “Good”.

GPs are doctors who are always registered with an independent body – the General Medical Council. The GMC looks at individual doctors and particularly their professional behaviour such as whether they are honest, professional, safe etc.

Doctors at the practice also have to go through a yearly appraisal process, and a 5 yearly revalidation process to maintain their registration with the GMC.

Nurses and other professionals have their own registration with a statutory body. For example, nurse colleagues are regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. These professionals also have their own appraisal and revalidation system.

Practices are also regularly reviewed by NHS England and local health structures. NHS England is the national organisation that commissions healthcare services in England. They are responsible for a wide variety of roles which maintain, improve, and quality assure NHS organisations such as GPs and hospitals.

In Manchester, the local NHS leadership structure is the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Board. These organisations look at the practice and how well it performs across Manchester and in comparison, to other practices.

There are also regular reviews of the practice from such tests as “Friends and Family Test” as well as the National GP survey. For your peace of mind, our practice in 2021 ranked in the top 3 in all practices in Manchester based on the “Overall Experience” category.