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'Choosing A General Practitioner'

Health Authorities (formerly Family Health Service Authorities) are now obliged to provide more comprehensive information about local GP practices (in Scotland the Health Boards do this; in Northern Ireland it is the Health and Social Services Board). Lists of GPs including the doctor's sex, qualifications and year of qualifying, as well as details of surgery opening hours, services provided and arrangements for emergencies, are compiled by Health Authorities and made available to the public in places like public libraries.

Everybody has a right to a GP, and most people at some stage need to choose a new one. Usually this is because they have moved house, but it may also be because the last doctor has moved, died or retired, or because they are not satisfied with their doctor. Except in an emergency, you need to be registered with a GP before you can receive treatment, so it is important to register with one as soon as you can.

GPs are also required to publish practice leaflets including a minimum set of information about he practice and services on offer. The distribution arrangements are for GPs to decide, but as a minimum, a supply of leaflets should be available at the practice for patients and prospective patients and a copy must be sent to the Health Authority/Board.

From April 1993, new Patient's Charter Standards oblige Health Authorities/Boards to act promptly and efficiently to help patients find a GP. If you are not already registered with a GP, the Health Authority should find you one within two working days. If you want to change doctors, you should be sent details of how to change, together with a list of local doctors, also within two working days.

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