Everyone in England is entitled to register with a GP. Many people who experience health inequalities can face barriers when trying to register. Practices should not turn people away because they do not have proof of ID, address or immigration status. People can also register if they do not know or do not have an NHS number.
Being registered with a GP has many benefits, the most important one at the moment is that GPs can identify those people who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 and ensure that they are invited to get a vaccination.
Local Healthwatch and voluntary organisations across the country are distributing the GP access cards to vulnerable communities who are less likely to be registered with a GP. The card, similar in look to a credit card provides details of how to register. On the back of the card is the NHS England Customer Contact Centre number, for people to use if they have been refused registration.
People who experience homelessness in England are 60 times more likely to visit A&E in a year compared with the general population. This is largely due to the difficulty they have in registering at a GP surgery, with people often wrongly turned away due to lack of proof of address or identification.
To help address this, Groundswell, their Homeless Health Peer Advocates and the London Homeless Health Programme (LHHP) first produced ‘My Right to Healthcare’ cards for people experiencing homelessness, to address this stark inequality by reinforcing the message that being denied access to GP surgeries is not acceptable.
The cards explain that all have a right to register with GP surgeries, including those experiencing homelessness, Gypsies and Travellers and other people who may be refused registration. They are small, plastic, credit card-style cards emphasising that when registering with a GP:
- you do not need a fixed address
- you do not need identification
- your immigration status does not matter