Getting a doctor in the UK

If you’re like me and have moved to the United Kingdom as an expat, you might be wondering how to get a doctor in your new home. Thankfully, it’s completely possible and relatively painless!

Once you’ve moved to the UK on a working visa (for me it was the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa) you’ll then be able to use the National Health Service in the UK like a regular citizen. This doesn’t apply if you’re visiting the UK on a Tourist Visa.

Here’s my experiences as a Canadian living in England and how to a doctor in the UK.

1. Find a GP practice nearby

You won’t want to get a general practitioner (GP) in the United Kingdom until you’ve settled. Once you’ve found accomodation and intend on staying in that area, you’ll need to find a nearby GP practice. A GP is what I would call a doctor in North America, so a GP Practice is what I would call a Doctor’s Office.

You can find nearby doctors online and you can even read reviews about the GPs and their practice. You can use the National Health Service (NHS) Find GP Services through their online search. Or you can Google for GPs in your specific area.

If you don’t have any specific health concerns, I would recommend picking a local GP to you, rather than choose one based on services provided.

2. Register with a GP Practice

Once you’ve decided what GP practice you’d like to use, you’ll need to apply to be a patient. I did this by simply going to the practice and saying I’d like to register. Most likely, they will give you some forms to fill out.

Once you’ve completed the forms to register, you’ll need to return them to your new GP office.

If that practice is unable to take on new patients, they will tell you so and you’ll need to pick another practice. It may be that they are at capacity and aren’t taking on new patients.

3. Your First Appointment

After returning all my forms, I was booked in for an appointment with one of the nurses. I was given a small tube to pee into and bring along to my appointment. This is basically a standard check-up and questionnaire appointment so they can create an accurate record of my health in the system.

This is especially helpful when you’re new to the UK and won’t be transferring medical records from your home country. It basically gives the GP a good baseline to work with.

My meeting with the nurse was super easy and quick. She was really friendly and the appointment was over in no time. Once my details were in the system, some simply measurements taken like weight and height, I was off!

At this point, I was able to book appointments with my new GP whenever I needed to as I was now a registered patient at that practice. However it’s important to note that waiting times for appointments can be really long, especially in cold and flu season.

Getting a GP in the UK

4. Getting Prescriptions in the UK

The only real reason I needed a doctor in the UK quickly was so I could refill my prescriptions. I was prescribed a medicine in Canada that was getting close to running out.

I booked an appointment with my doctor and brought along my Canadian prescription. Because they didn’t have the exact kind in the UK, the GP checked the ingredients and prescribed the UK equivalent.

I took the prescription sheet of paper and gave it to reception – I didn’t really know how all this worked.

They said I could get my prescription filled at any pharmacy I chose, or I could set it up with them that they would send it automatically to the neighbouring pharmacy. For convenience, I asked that they automatically send it.

5. Refilling Your Prescription

I think each GP practice might do it slightly different, but here’s what I have to do to get my UK prescription refilled.

Each time I pick up my prescription, it comes with a refill sheet. Make sure to keep this! When my prescription is starting to get low, I have to drop off that refill sheet at the doctors. The sheet itself is just a simple checkbox list, and you check which prescription you need the refill for. My GP practice has a little mailbox that you drop the refill sheet into.

I have to wait around 48 hours, and then my prescription will be ready to be picked up by the pharmacy next door.

I have one prescription that I pay for, but it’s incredibly affordable. Birth control pills are provided free, but you’ll just need to follow the same prescription routine as any other medication. However when you pick them up from the pharmacy, you won’t need to pay.

Then I just repeat the same process over again!

  • Submit my refill sheet to the doctors
  • Wait two days
  • Pick up my prescription at the pharmacy

How to get a doctor in the UK

Overall, getting a doctor or GP in the UK is fairly simple! It shouldn’t take you too long, and once it’s done you won’t need to worry about it again. If you’re ever unsure about the process, simply ask at reception and they will be able to lay out their procedures for you.