In England, everyone has the right to register at a GP practice. There is no legal requirement to prove identity, address, immigration status or provide an NHS number in order to register as a patient.
This includes all asylum seekers (including those with refused asylum status), refugees and those who are homeless.
My right to healthcare cards
Everyone has the right to register with a GP practice in England. As stated on the ‘My right to access healthcare’ card:
- You do not need a fixed address
- You do not need identification
- Your immigration status does not matter.
There are some practical reasons why GP practices ask patients for documents. One example is to make sure that the practice is able to get the correct records from your last doctor’s practice. Another reason is to check and record on your NHS records whether you have to pay for community or hospital services.
You may be asked for some documents, but if you don’t have them the practice cannot say no to registering you.
- GP registration is free of charge
- Registration with a GP practice can generally be done on the same day. A ‘new patient check’ appointment will usually be offered. This might not happen straight away as it depends on when the next appointment is available. If someone has an immediate clinical need the practice is required to arrange for that person to see a nurse or a doctor as quickly as possible and have the ‘new patient check’ later
- The only circumstances where a practice can say no to registering someone is if their list is full or they decide that it isn’t clinically appropriate for the person to be registered with their practice. However, if someone is in immediate need of medical help, all practices must provide this and continue to provide cover for the following 14 days
- The national registration guidance says ‘Where necessary, (e.g. homeless patients), the practice may use the practice address to register them if they wish. If possible, practices should try to ensure they have a way of contacting the patient if they need to (for example with test results).
Distributing the cards
Organisations that have received cards are asked to help ensure the cards reach people who are homeless. This can be people who are sleeping rough, people who live in hostels, people who are chronically insecurely housed or are sleeping on sofas with friends or family. The cards can be displayed by organisations for people to pick up or can be directly distributed by staff.
Groundswell are currently offering a service to print and distribute an adapted version of the My right to healthcare cards, developed with NHS England and Improvement. Visit this page for details on how services can place an order to receive copies of the cards.
The NHS website has a translation facility for people whose English is limited. People working with those whose English is limited may also want to use local translation and interpretation services to explain the card.
Please use the following print-ready versions of the homeless health ‘My right to receive healthcare’ card.
- Download the print-ready file.
- Download larger cards that have been produced for people with sight problems.
Front side of card
Reverse side of card
We welcome other areas adapting the cards for local use, however, if you are going to use any organisation’s logo you will need to get permission to reproduce it.
- eLearning for GP receptionists and practice managers in London.
- Homelessness health resource pack to help signpost NHS staff and commissioners to a range of resources that can support their work with adults who are homeless.
- See more in the NHS Primary Medical Care Policy and Guidance.