The rules regarding patient registration

Practices need to be aware of the rules which dictate who can and can’t register at a GP practice

When can you decline a patient registration?

Practices may only decline to register a patient (whether as a temporary resident or permanent patient) if they have reasonable grounds to do so. These grounds must not be related to the race, gender, social class, age, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or medical condition of the potential patient.

Registering without proof of identity or address

There is no contractual duty to seek evidence of identity, immigration status or proof of address. Practices should not refuse registration on the grounds that a patient is unable to produce such evidence. In addition, practice staff do not have to make any assessment of immigration status or eligibility for NHS care; they are not expected to act as immigration officials.

Homeless patients

The same rules as above regarding identity, and proof of address, applies to homeless patients. Homeless patients are entitled to register with a GP using a temporary address, which may be a friend’s address or a day centre. The practice address may also be used to register them. See CQC guidance on homeless patients for further information.

Temporary visitors and tourists

Anyone, regardless of their country of residence, is entitled to receive NHS primary medical services at a GP practice. This means tourists, or those from abroad visiting friends or family in England, should be treated in the same way as a UK resident. It also means that GP practices cannot charge for this. Patients should be registered as temporary if they intend to reside in the practice area for more than one day but less than three months.

Process for registering overseas visitors intending to stay for longer than three months

Patients with no immigration status – immigration status makes no difference; any person in the UK is able to register with a GP practice and receive NHS primary medical services free of charge. Practice staff do not have to make any assessment of immigration status or eligibility for non-primary NHS care; they are not expected to act as immigration officials.

If a pratice believes that someone is fraudulently trying to obtain treatment they should inform NHS England or their CCG.

Patients about to be released from the secure estate

GPs have a contractual obligation to accept a patient for pre-registration prior to their release from the secure residential estate. GP practices are asked to ensure that processes are in place to support this. Plans are also progressing to enable patients to register with a GP in their place of detention in the same way as they register with a community GP. This will be rolled out next year across England. For full guidance visit:

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