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New to university, how do I get a GP?

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 4 minutes read

Moving away from home is always a big step. Full of celebration, excitement, but also some anxiety and feeling a bit overwhelmed. One of the boring jobs that should be on the list once freshers’ week is out of the way is thinking about getting registered with a local GP. Fingers crossed you won’t need to see your doctor, but if you do then it’s good to know where you can go.

Your GP can be your route to hospital specialists, your travel and vaccination expert, or even just a reassuring person to talk to if things are difficult. Here the Healthwords medical team goes into a bit more detail about how to look after your health when arriving at university.

We have a guide on how the NHS works for international students.

How do I find a local GP?

Most universities have a GP surgery based inside or very close to the campus, union building or lecture theatres. You are able to register with any local GP surgery you choose, but the university health centres have services tailor-made for you and other stud.ents, with practitioners attuned to your health problems or concerns.

You should get registered with the GP surgery as soon as possible after arriving at university. This will mean you can access appointments, referrals and medications from the doctors working there whenever you need them. You can only be registered at one GP at a time, and you will be deregistered from one practice (such as your home GP surgery) if you register at a new one.

It can be hard juggling health needs when you’re spending the long holidays back at your parents and term-time at university. Because university students spend long periods at home as well as at university, one solution to this is to know that you are able to access emergency treatment from a practice for up to 14 days. After this you would need to register as a temporary resident, but for most problems 14 days should be able to cover things. It means that you can avoid needing to keep registering and de-registering from two practices when going between home and university. To find a list of your local practices, you can use the NHS website

I have a long-term condition, where should I register?

It is even more important to register promptly with a GP surgery at university If you have any long-term health conditions such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease or epilepsy. You may wish to retain your specialist consultant and team at your home hospital but change over your GP surgery to university so you have easy access to a medical review, should it be needed.

You can also request to change teams if you feel you would be better served having a hospital team near university, it will just take some time for your GP to refer you and for the teams to communicate.

If you are on long-term medications, your university GP will be able to prescribe them and ensure you continue with no interruptions. Most of the medication records will be transferred electronically after a few weeks, but may need prescribing again by your new practice. Make sure you have a good supply before leaving for university. Check with your new surgery

Where can I access contraception and sexual health services?

Your local GP is knowledgeable and skilled at providing contraceptive and sexual health services. They will be happy to talk you through the options for different contraceptives, emergency contraception, sexual health tests, and provide any treatments you need. These services and prescriptions for contraception are provided free of charge.

You may feel more comfortable going to a specific sexual health service in the local area. Most sexual health services are completely confidential, don’t require any real names or details, and are completely free. Sexual health centre notes and treatments will not be shared with your GP or hospital records, unless you specifically request that, so it is up to you if you want to tell your usual doctor. You can usually access daily weekday walk-in services for urgent problems such as emergency contraception, and HIV risk assessments for post-exposure prophylaxis. You can use the NHS’s find local services website to find your local centre.

How do I find a dentist?

It is important you find a dentist when you join uni. Contrary to popular belief, most doctors are pretty useless with teeth. In fact, we’re not allowed to prescribe treatments for teeth. To keep your pearly whites whiter than white and ensure you don’t end up with toothache before a big exam, be sure to get registered with a local dentist. NHS dentists are available but can be hard to come by, so you may have no choice but to register with a private dentist. Some treatments with an NHS dentist are free, others need to be paid for.

Even if you keep going to your dentist at home during the holidays, it is worth having a local university dentist that you could access in an emergency. Once again, the NHS has a helpful finder website.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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