GP services for older people

Although your GP doesn’t need to be your first point of contact if you’re feeling unwell, everyone should be registered with a GP. If you’re not, you should register with a practice as soon as possible, even if you don’t currently have any health problems.

What does a GP do?

  • Your General Practitioner (GP) can give you medical advice, treatment and prescribe medication.
  • Your GP can also refer you to other healthcare professionals to diagnose or treat specific aspects of your condition. For example, they may refer you to a chiropodist, for a hearing test, or to your local falls prevention service. These other health professionals may visit you at home or hold clinics at a local practice, health centre or hospital.
  • Your GP practice must allocate everyone a named, accountable GP. This GP will oversee your care and take responsibility for evaluating your current physical and psychological needs. Though this doesn’t mean the named GP is the only doctor at your practice who will or can provide care.

What services should I look for in a GP surgery?

If you’re joining a new surgery, ask about the availability of services that may be important to you, such as:

  • how the appointment system works
  • how far in advance you can book a non-urgent appointment
  • extended opening hours
  • support for carers
  • availability of male and female GPs and nurses
  • wheelchair access
  • staff who speak languages other than English.

Some surgeries offer a 24-hour online service, through which you can book appointments with a GP of your choice or cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view your summary care record. Speak to the receptionist to find out what online services your GP surgery offers and how to register for online access.

Find out more about online services on the NHS website

If you have difficulty finding a practice with space for new patients, contact NHS England – it’s their responsibility to find a GP practice for you.

How do I register with a GP surgery?

You can register with a GP surgery over the phone, online or in person.

Find your local GP surgery using the NHS website

You don’t need proof of ID to register with a GP, but you may find it helpful to have your passport or birth certificate handy while you’re filling in your details.

Find out more about registering with a GP on the NHS website

What if I’m too ill to visit my GP?

If you’re unable to visit your GP surgery for medical reasons, you can ask your GP to make a home visit. Your GP may be able to give you advice through a telephone consultation. If possible, try to call your GP in the morning if you think you’ll need a visit the same day.

What if I’m not registered with a GP or I’m away from home?

You should always be able to see a GP if you need urgent attention. If you’re away from home or have not registered with a GP and fall ill, you should contact the nearest surgery and ask them to see you.

If you’ll be living away from your usual address for up to three months, you can register as a temporary patient at a local practice. You’ll still be able to remain registered as a patient with the GP where you normally live.

What support can I get if I have a long-term condition?

Millions of people have one or more long-term conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, asthma or other lung diseases. These conditions cannot be cured but can be managed with medication and other treatments.

If you have a long-term condition, your GP should help you understand and manage your own care. This may include drawing up a care plan to help you manage your condition on a day-to-day basis and recognise symptoms that you should report to your GP.

It may also include creating an ‘information prescription’, which is a collection of information that your GP thinks is helpful to you at that time, and will help you understand your condition and ways to prevent any further complications. This can be done with the help of the NHS website, which helps you find reliable sources of information about your condition.