The General Practitioner and Specialists

In the UK the General Practitioner is always the first point of contact, even for children. GPs are family doctors that perform routine health checks, gynaecological and pre/post-natal checks, developmental checks for children, immunisations for both children and adults and any other non-specific illness. They often provide the initial diagnosis and then if necessary refer you to a specialist. The NHS GP can also refer you to a private specialist. GPs usually work in practices as part of a team, which includes nurses, healthcare assistants, practice managers, receptionists and other staff.

We recommend that you register with a GP as soon as you have a permanent UK address.

To find an NHS GP surgery near you, visit the NHS website.

NHS GP surgeries have their own geographical boundaries, so practices will only accept patients living in the catchment area. Before registering with your surgery, you may want to ask neighbours for recommendations, visit a couple of surgeries, and inquire about opening hours and services offered. In order to register, call or visit your GP surgery. You may need to present photo identification, such as your passport or driving license and proof of your address, such as a recent council tax bill or utility bill.

Most private doctors do not require advance registration, but it is advisable to contact them before you become sick to ensure they will see you when you need them. To register with a private GP, call or visit your chosen practice. Some will require an initial appointment and may also require an annual fee.


Specialists including paediatricians, gynaecologists, dermatologists and cardiologists, in the UK are highly qualified consultants who specialise in specific areas of medicine. Patients may be referred to a specialist either by an NHS or private GP. 

The majority of private health insurance in Britain will only cover specialist appointments and treatments when referred by a GP (both NHS and private) and not the initial appointment with the private GP.  You will also need to ensure that the recommended specialist is included in the list of consultants covered by your insurance company.

Pregnancies are usually not covered by private insurance companies; unless it is a risky pregnancy. However, some private international health insurances will cover private GP fees, pregnancy, and private specialists without a GP referral.  It is advisable to enquire and understand your coverage.