I need a doctor

Feeling sick and not sure where to go? If you need a doctor, there are lots of different options open to you. Read on to find out about registering at a GP surgery, including how to see a doctor in the UK if you’re not registered, what to do if you’re a temporary resident, and more.

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Registering with a doctor

This is always best done before you’re at death’s door, but you can usually get registered and get an appointment on the same day if you’re really sick. Finding a good GP can be tough – check out our article on how to find a doctor or ask a friend who they’re registered with.

To register you’ll need to fill out a form and get your patient details transferred. You might also be asked to come in and see a nurse who will give you a basic health check.

Once you’re on the books, you can pre-book appointments in advance or get emergency appointments on the day if you wake up feeling awful.

Can you see a doctor without being registered?

Yes you can. It’s actually pretty simple to see a doctor in the UK if you’re not registered, for example while you’re away from home. The NHS website can help you find a GP practice near you to receive emergency treatment for up to 14 days. If your treatment lasts longer than that, you’ll have to register as a temporary or permanent resident.

If you need to use that GP for more than three months, you’ll need to re-register as a temporary patient or permanently register with that practice. You could also try calling 111 or visit a walk-in centre.

Calling 111

Think you need urgent medical help but don’t think you’re in a complete emergency? Ring the NHS 111 service, which is completely free, and talk to one of their advisors. They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms and then point you in the right direction – from an out-of-hours dentist, to a late-night chemist. If they think you need emergency help, they may call an ambulance or tell you to get to A&E.

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Going to an NHS walk-in centre

If you have a minor illness or injury and can’t get an appointment with your GP, you can go to an NHS walk-in centre. They tend to have more useful opening hours (i.e. they don’t assume sick people only get sick Mon-Fri 9-5), you don’t need an appointment, and you don’t need to be registered. That said, they’re usually run on a first-come-first-served basis, so bring a good book with you and prepare to wait. They can help with anything from stomach flu, needing a few stitches, to the morning-after pill.

Search for your nearest walk-in centre here.

Going to a GUM clinic

If your health niggle is happening in your pants, going to your local GUM clinic is a good idea. The same if you just want to have a chat about contraception. GUM clinics deal with our dangly bits all day every day so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Either book an appointment or attend a drop-in clinic for an STI test, prescription for the pill, getting a coil, or even just for a heap of free condoms. Learn more about what a GUM clinic is and how to find one here.

Getting private treatment

If you have the money and want to jump a long NHS waiting list – there is the option to go private. This can work in two ways: you start a private health insurance plan and pay money into it each month, or you just pay for the odd one-off bit of private healthcare, like getting an MRI scan or going to a private therapist.

Complaining about a GP or the NHS

If you can’t afford to go private, and feel really let down by your NHS treatment, it’s worth making a complaint with the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) who will try and help you resolve the issue. If you’d like to complain about a GP, read this.

For more information on using health services, head over here.

Next Steps

  • You can visit NHS Choices for more information. You can get quick advice when it's not an emergency on 111.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.




Updated on 16-Sep-2022