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How to change your GP

You may need to change your GP if you move. You may want to change for other reasons, even if you’re not moving house.

First find a GP who will accept you. See if anybody can recommend one. Your local community health council (CHC) or health authority (in Northern Ireland your local Health and Social Services Board/Trust; the Central Services Agency in Belfast, or your local HSSC) keeps a list of doctors in your area.

You may have to try more than one GP before you find one willing to accept you, especially if you live in a heavily populated area.

If you can’t find someone after several attempts, your health authority will do it for you and should send them your medical card if you have it, or the address of your previous GP if not.

When you call at the surgery of the GP you’ve chosen, you may be asked why you want to change. You don’t have to give a reason but if you do, try to avoid criticising your old GP.

Say something good about the new one instead. For example, the surgery may be easier to get to, the hours may be better, the GP may have a good reputation for treating young children, the practice may be larger and provide more, or you may prefer a woman doctor, or one who shares your cultural background.

Once you’ve found a GP to accept you, leave your medical card with the receptionist. You don’t have to contact your old GP at all. If you’ve lost your medical card, your new GP will probably ask you to complete a form instead, although sometimes you may be asked to contact the health authority (in the phone book under the name of your health authority) giving the name and address of your previous GP to obtain a medical card first. If you don’t know your old GP’s name and address this may take a while, but if you need treatment in the meantime, you can approach any GP, who must take you on, at least temporarily.

It’s best to say from the beginning that you need treatment now if you’re also asking to be permanently registered with that GP.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.