Do you need proof of address to register with a GP?
The answer is, in short no, but this was one of the 10 common problems we found when our network spoke to over 11,000 people about their experiences of Primary Care. Here are some examples of what local Healthwatch have been doing to tackle this problem.
We spoke to Healthwatch Enfield to find out how this is affecting local people.
How did this issue come about?
We had heard from a number of people that they had experienced significant problems when trying to register with a GP. We knew that Healthwatch Haringey had found similar problems in the neighbouring borough, so we decided to explore this issue.
What did people say?
With help from our team of volunteers, we carried out an on-street survey in the area of Enfield that had generated the most complaints and bordered Healthwatch Haringey's area of concern. We were shocked to find that 17% of people we spoke to did not have a GP, including some children.
The main reason for people not having registered with a GP was because they did not feel that they needed to, or because they faced problems doing so. The most common problem that prevented people from registering was difficulties with providing proof of address.
What happened as a result?
We produced a report and made a series of recommendations including:
• All GP practices in Enfield need to be aware of alternative ways of registering individuals who do not have proof of address
• More work needs to be done to encourage people to register with a GP practice before they become unwell
• Further work needs to be done to provide a more accurate and up-to-date assessment of the numbers of people who are not registered with a GP
• Information needs to be available, both nationally and locally, about how to register with a GP.
We sent our report to our Clinical Commissioning Group, Enfield Public Health and NHS England and secured local press coverage on the issue.
As a direct response to our report, our local Public Health department teamed up with us to produce a series of leaflets about registering with a GP. These are being delivered to all households in the five most deprived wards in the borough, as well as being produced in other prominent local languages, such as Turkish and Polish.
Have you received any feedback so far?
Our Chief Executive has highlighted the issue with the CCG's GP Quality Improvement Group, the CCG's Patient and Public Participation Committee and the local LMC and the problem has been recognised. With new NHS England Guidance having just come out, local GP practices are now more fully aware of their responsibilities to register people.
What else have we heard from the Healthwatch network about GP registration?
Healthwatch Southampton found that almost all GP practices in Southampton routinely ask for proof of identity, potentially denying many people access to care in Southampton. Through working with Wessex Local Medical Committees (LMCs) they got them to update their existing guidance for local GP surgeries on good practice in registering new patients.
As a result they have already had some really positive feedback and have heard that people are asked less frequently to present photographic ID or utility bills as proof of address.
What’s happening nationally?
NHS England has worked with patient groups and advocacy organisations to produce guidance on registering with a GP. It clarifies that patients do not legally need to provide documentary evidence of identity, immigration status or proof of address, to register with a GP. According to the Standard Operating Principles for Primary Medical Care (General Practice):
Inability by a patient to provide identification or proof of address would not be considered reasonable grounds to refuse to register a patient.
Practices should not refuse registration on such grounds and there is no contractual duty to seek such evidence. This approach is supported by the BMA General Practitioners Committee.
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