Registering with a GP practice or family doctor
GPs are family doctors and are normally the first health professionals you see when you have an illness or injury that will not go away. It is free of charge to see a GP.
GPs work in buildings called GP practices. Sometimes they are part of a Health Centre where lots of different health professionals work.
You need to register with the GP practice before you can use it.
Most GP practices will send you a letter containing your NHS Number when you register with them.
Your NHS Number helps health care staff identify your health records correctly. It will be on any letter or document you have received from the NHS, such as prescriptions, test results, and appointment letters.
There are around 100 GP practices in Leeds so you should be able to find one local to where you live. This is also free of charge.
Find your local GP practice on the NHS website.
What you need to take with you
To register, contact the GP practice and ask for a registration form. You will need to fill this in and take it back to the GP practice. You may be asked to provide proof of your identity and address. If you can provide this, it is very helpful. The GP practice is not allowed to refuse your registration even if you can not provide the right documents – you can read more about your rights to register with a GP practice here – available in different languages
If you need help filling in your registration form, you can take someone with you or you can ask for an interpreter. If you need an interpreter, please call the practice to arrange for one to meet you at the practice on an agreed date to help you.
Booking a GP appointment
You can book an appointment with the GP practice reception staff over the phone or by visiting the practice in person. You can also book online – if this is something you would like to do you will need to ask the reception staff.
GP practices are often very busy and you may need to wait several days or up to two weeks for an appointment.
If you think you need to see a GP urgently you will need to tell the receptionist why and they may be able to get you an appointment quicker. You can also phone your GP practice at 8am, to see if there are any appointments the same day. Be aware, these same day appointments get booked up quickly.
You can ask for a male of female GP or nurse if you want.
If you need an interpreter
If English is not your main language and you need someone who can understand and speak your main language to come with you to the appointment, you can ask for an interpreter. This is a free service which is provided over the phone. You will need to tell the receptionist you need an interpreter when you book your appointment.
You can choose to bring a friend or family member who can speak and understand English with you instead, but you may prefer to use the interpreter service if you want to keep your conversation in the appointment private.
Difference between a GP and nurse
You might not always need to see a GP. You can make an appointment with a practice nurse. Practice nurses are qualified to provide immunisations (vaccinations), treatment of wounds, and provide advice about contraception and stopping smoking.
Keeping your appointment
It is really important you keep your appointment and arrive on time. If you think you cannot attend the appointment you need to call the GP practice as soon as you can. This is really important so they can give the appointment to someone else. Be aware, if you arrive late your appointment will be cancelled.
When you arrive for your appointment
You will find a reception desk and waiting area in the GP practice. When you arrive, you will need to tell the person on the reception desk you have arrived so they know you are there for your appointment. Some practices have a computer screen you can use to do this.
The receptionist or computer will ask you to confirm your name, address and date of birth.
After this, you will need to wait until your name is called for your appointment. Be aware, if the GP practice is particularly busy, sometimes there can be a delay with appointments.
What happens in your appointment
Appointments usually last for about 10 minutes. Usually there is only enough time to talk about one health problem. If you have more than one problem you want to talk about, it is a good idea to decide which is the most important. You may have enough time to talk about two problems in your appointment, but often the GP will advise you to make another appointment.
Be aware, each appointment is for one person only. You can not bring other family members to ask about their health problems in the same appointment.
It can be helpful to write down what you want to ask the GP or nurse and take it into your appointment to remind you. If you don’t understand anything the GP or nurse tells you, you should ask them to explain it again. It is also a good idea to take notes so you can remember what they told you and look for further information if you need it.
Keeping information private
You can trust your GP or nurse to keep any information you tell them safe and private. Sometimes they may need to share information about you with other services to help you get the right treatment (for example, the hospital). They will always ask your permission to do this.
If they think you or someone else is at immediate risk of serious harm, they may share information without getting permission to protect you or other people.
Medication / Prescription
Your GP or nurse may advise you to take some medication to help you get better. There are two ways to get medication:
- You can buy everyday medication (such as paracetamol or allergy medication) for common illnesses from supermarkets or pharmacies. This is sometimes called ‘over the counter’ medicine. You can get an advice about medication from the pharmacy staff. Find out more about help you can get from a pharmacy here.
- You may be prescribed medication by a GP or nurse in your appointment. In this case, you will be given a slip of paper by the GP or nurse with the medication you need printed on it. You will then need to take this to a pharmacy to collect the medication.
You will usually have to pay for your prescription medication (this is the same rule for everybody in England). However, you might be able to get it free of charge if you are:
- Aged over 60
- Pregnant or you have a baby under 12 months old
- Living with or having treatment for certain medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes
- Claiming certain welfare benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance
Children under 16, or aged 16-18 and in full time education can also get free prescription medication.
Find out more about prescription medication costs and who can get it for free on the NHS website
If you are thinking about buying medicines over the internet, be very careful because many websites sell fake medicines. Always talk to your GP about it first.
Your GP or nurse may also make you an appointment to see a specialist, for example in a hospital, if your health problem needs further treatment or tests. You will receive a letter in the post with the details. It may offer you the choice of where to go for the treatment.