Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Choosing a GP surgery

Everyone has a right to register with a GP practice of their choice as long as they live within the ‘catchment area’ (the area that the GP covers) and it has space for new patients. A GP practice is the same as a doctor’s surgery or local health centre. People who live in rural areas (such as a village) might have less choice about where they can register.
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There are a number of things to think about when choosing a local surgery. People can phone or visit it before they register if they want to get a first impression. Things to think about include:

•    location – is it easy to get to, whether that’s by walking, public transport or driving? If driving, is it easy to park outside the surgery?
When Aphra went to university, it was easy and convenient to register with a GP. Like several other students we talked to, she was given a pack containing a registration form and list of local surgeries:
•    opening hours – what are the opening times? Can people book appointments outside normal working hours?
•    appointments – does the surgery offer a range of appointment times, including same-day appointments for urgent problems? How far in advance can people book an appointment with their preferred GP? Does the surgery offer telephone consultations and online booking?
•    reputation – what is the reputation of the surgery? What do neighbours, family or friends say about it?
•    GPs – does the surgery have male and female GPs, and any doctors with special interests?
Fran had mental health problems when she was younger (psychosis), starting around the age of 13. She really liked her GP and wanted to stay with him when she moved, even if it meant taking a bus to see him.
•    information – is it easy to get information about the surgery? There may be leaflets about it in the waiting room or on the internet.
•    atmosphere – is the atmosphere organised, relaxed, and professional?
•    reception staff – do the receptionists come across as helpful?

There are a number of ways of finding out about local GP practices. People talked to friends, family or neighbours, or looked online. 

Most surgeries have their own website. This can be useful for information about opening hours, the services provided, the staff, relevant forms, and online services such as booking an appointment. There’s more information on the local NHS website (for more see ‘Information and Resources’). The NHS does an annual survey of people’s experiences of all GP practices and makes the results available online, so anyone can search what people say they like and dislike about each practice. There are also a number of independent online review sites.
John moved house several times because of university or work. He looked on the internet whenever he needed to join a new practice:


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