Doctors and Dentists in the United Kingdom

Find out how to go about registering with a general practitioner (GP)...

Visitors to the UK are entitled to emergency treatment. However, they are not usually entitled to non-hospital treatment unless a GP is willing to treat them as a temporary resident. A person can register as a temporary patient with a GP practice if they are in the area for more than 24 hours and less than three months. It is up to the GP practice to decide whether to accept new patients or not. If accepted, treatment will be free of charge. Otherwise, visitors might be accepted by a GP as a private patient, in which case they will have to pay for treatment.    

How to register with a GP

In general, a person must be registered with a health surgery in order to get treatment from a GP. To register with a GP, go to a local surgery (these can be found in the Yellow Pages or via the NHS website). There is a form to fill in and the following information is needed:
  • Name
  • UK address
  • Nationality
  • Any existing health conditions
Some newcomers to the UK may be registered as temporary residents. If they have been in the UK for over three months they can register as permanent residents. However, this may vary from one surgery to another. Once registered with a GP, a patient can make appointments when ill, or for check ups, and if necessary, a doctor will visit the patient at home (if the patient is very ill). If the doctor prescribes medicines, a prescription is issued. Prescription drugs are available from pharmacies and there is a standard fee. Prescription drugs are free of charge for children under 16 (or under 19 when in full-time education), over 60s, to people entitled to certain social security benefits, pregnant women and people with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes. If a specialist consultation is required, first visit the GP who refers the patient to a specialist (consultant). Without a referral, treatment with a consultant is not free of charge. Waiting lists to see NHS consultants can be long. Many UK residents choose to take out private medical insurance in order to see private consultants. However, consultants may choose not to see a patient who has not been referred by a GP.


It can be difficult to find an NHS dentist whose quota of NHS patients is not full. This means many dental treatments are charged at full price even if the patient is eligible for free treatment under the NHS. Free dental treatment is only available to:
  • Under 18s and underc 19-year-olds in full-time education
  • Pregnant women, or women who have had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts
  • A patient at an NHS hospital and the treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist
  • An outpatient at an NHS Hospital Dental Service
  • A recipient or the partner of a recipient of Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • People named on, or entitled to an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • People with an HC2 certificate (for full help with health costs)
The NHS website has more on who is entitled to free dental treatment