General Practice gives a warm welcome to everyone

Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free. You do not need ID, proof of address or an NHS number to register.

In my previous blog I wrote about the difficulties many people face when registering with a GP surgery. I suggested some actions that general practice can take to support everyone to access NHS services.

One of the most common problems when registering with a GP surgery is variation in the process. This includes practices requesting ID and proof of address from patients in order to register with them. But what some people may not know is that documentation to support registration should only be requested in limited circumstances. And if a patient does not have a permanent address, they should be registered and there are ways to do this such as using either a temporary address or the address of the GP surgery.

Another way of making it easier for everyone to register with a practice is our new digital registration service ‘Register with a GP surgery.’ A national online registration service standardises the process for practices and removes the need to request documentation from patients. We have worked with charities such as Groundswell and Doctors of the World on the design, using feedback from those who are most at risk of exclusion and have the poorest health outcomes.

Over 1100 practices are currently using the new digital service – around one in five nationally  and over 325,000 registration forms have been successfully submitted. A complementary paper form is now also available to all practices using the digital service.

Both formats aim to provide patients with choice and convenience in the way they register while also making the whole process simpler and easier for GP surgeries.

As part of the commitments set out in the Primary Care Access Recovery plan  we are encouraging all practices in England to sign up to this new registration service, with the aim of 2000 practices signing up by December 2023. I strongly recommend that all practices wanting to provide a more accessible and convenient registration service to patients, consider enrolling on the service. Visit the Register with a GP surgery service resource hub to find out more and self-enrol. You can also contact our dedicated team.

Benefits include:

  • Saving time – reduces admin processing time by up to 15 minutes per registration.
  • Reducing footfall – your practice can be easily found using Find a GP or on the NHS App and patients don’t have to come in to physically request a form.
  • Improved accuracy of registration information – uses a standardised question set and data validation to ensure patients submit all the information needed to register, reducing the number of registrations that need further investigation by Primary Care Support England (PCSE exceptions) by a third.
  • NHS login enabled – this verifies patient identity. There is a 90% match rate to NHS number using this service.
  • Accessible – meets all required web accessibility standards and is compatible with translation tools.
  • Maintained – digital specialists ensure the service always reflects current policy, complies with GDPR best practice and undergoes ongoing improvements based on practice and patient feedback.
  • Catchment area checks – performs catchment area checks for patients accessing the service via Find a GP and flags patients that are out of catchment area to practices when they receive the application.
  • Automation – Enabling patient registrations to be automatically entered into GP clinical systems is our aspiration for our national service. While this is being designed, we have developed a practical solution to support practices. Using compatible Robotic Process Automation (RPA), practices enrolled with our service have the option to automatically transfer information from our online form directly into EMIS or SystmOne, saving practices even more time when processing registrations.

The service provides a great opportunity to improve patient experience,  helping reduce known barriers that exist to registration while  saving time for practices. Thank you for your support in making this a reality. Talk to our team or enrol today.

Dr Kiren Collison

Dr Kiren Collison is a GP and Deputy Medical Director for Primary Care, NHS England.
Kiren has a focus on strengthening primary care, the interface between primary and secondary care and patient safety. She has previously worked across settings, both as provider and commissioner, and has been the chair of the NHS national long COVID taskforce.