Video: Registering patients in general practice

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Practices can often feel under pressure to take robust steps to verify patients' addresses and identities. We and organisations such as Doctors of the World UK can support practices with registering undocumented patients.

We know that practices can often feel stuck between pressure from commissioners to keep an accurate patient list and the obligation to register patients without ID or proof of address. We also know that the care needs of people fleeing conflict zones or travelling from countries with less developed health systems can place a lot of strain on practice resources. Where these challenges occur, we encourage you to contact your LMC to raise them with commissioners.

Practices are required to register undocumented patients who say they live within a practice’s boundary, specifically those who cannot prove their address or provide a form of ID, unless a list closure has been agreed with commissioners. We have produced this video to remind practices of their responsibilities and where they can access help and support.

It is worth remembering these requirements also apply to undocumented migrants and people of no fixed address. The precariousness of housing in London also means many people move frequently, sublet and/or ‘sofa-surf’ between friends, often not having their names on a utility bill for their current address.

The BMA have produced guidance on patient registration., including details of which parts of the GMS Contract and regulations set out a practice’s obligations.

Further to this, Section 5 of NHS England’s Patient Registration Standard Operating Principles reads:

“If a patient cannot produce any supportive documentation but states that they reside within the practice boundary then practices should accept the registration.”

The charity Doctors of the World (DotW) also provide resources to support practices registering refugees, vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. In 2021 we published this piece explaining some of the other resources practices may find useful.

The BMA’s refugee and asylum seeker patient health toolkit was updated in September 2023.

Refugee housing

The following groups are looking for find people to house refugees, they are also seeking individuals, groups and businesses who are able to help them support refugees and welcome them into communities.

Ukrainian refugees

A range of materials were published in 2022 when refugees from Ukraine began arriving in significant numbers, these are still relevant today for any new arrivals from Ukraine, although references to the now closed Homes for Ukraine scheme should be ignored. In April 2022 the Government published advice for primary care on how to register and support arrivals from Ukraine, around the same time DotW published a leaflet in Ukrainian explaining how to register with an NHS GP. NHS England published further advice on meeting the initial health needs of arriving Ukrainians in June 2022.