Registering with a GP as a boat dweller without a home mooring

Any British or EU citizen has a right to register with a GP to access primary care services. It doesn’t matter what anyone says otherwise, that is your right. However, GP practices don’t always accept that straight away and will demand proof of address. They might even tell you that it is impossible to register you without proof of address because a higher authority will not let them. This is not true. GP practices have always had the discretion to register patients out of their catchment area and having no proof of address is not a legitimate reason to refuse your registration.

The NHS is legally obliged under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to reduce inequalities between patients and this includes improving access to healthcare services for travellers. According to the following NHS guidance, GPs must allow people without a permanent address (no fixed abode) to register at their practice when the practice is open to registering new patients, see the following link:

Some GPs will register travelling boat dwellers without any hassle. Simply go and register and provide an address where you would like your letters to go. If you don’t have an address, ask them to put down the address of the practice. It may help, when you go in person,  if you take in a copy of this post and the document ‘who pays’ (the link is in the article). Also note that some GPs take a letter from your bank as prove of address, so if you can take in a letter from your bank to the address you want to use.

If for some reason the practice refuses to register you and they are currently registering patients, do the following:

  1. Ask to talk to the GP or practice manager, if they are not around request that they phone you back and you want them to state the reasons in writing as to why they are refusing to let you register at the practice.
  2. If you do not get a call back and they are still refusing to let you register, bring them a copy of the above NHS guidance document which outlines that they should register you and refusing to register you because you are a traveller IS discrimination.
  3. Make sure you write down when you tried to register and any other details such as the name of the person/people you spoke to at the practice and any quotes as this will be useful later.
  4. If they are still refusing to register you, (and they might), write an email to the GP’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Writing to your Clinical Commissioning Group:

You can find out which CCG they belong to on the NHS website by searching the name and/or address of the practice.  In the email or letter to the practice, state that you live on a boat without a home mooring and that the GP practice is refusing to register you as a patient. Attach a copy of the NHS guidance document above and why they shouldn’t have refused you. Please click here for template letter for CCG, amend as necessary and make a note of when you send things out.

Some CCGs might get back to you and are helpful but sometimes they may not get back to you. If you do not hear from the CCG or they are not helpful, you should write to NHS England. Again, email or send a letter to NHS England explaining that the GP practice has refused to register you, include dates of when you have contacted the GP practice and CCG; and that you are still being refused registration at the GP practice. Please see the attached template letter, amend as necessary and again make a note of when you send things out.

Contact details for NHS England:


Post: NHS England, PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT

NHS England should get back to you and say that you should not have been refused registration and to tell you to tell the GP practice that NHS England said they should register you. Then send a letter or email to the GP practice saying you have talked to NHS England and that you shouldn’t have been refused registration at this practice and include a copy of the letter/ email from NHS England. Please click here for template letter for NHS england, amend as necessary and make a note of when you send things out.

You may be tempted to skip to the end and contact NHS England straight away however NHS England will expect you to go through the stages outlined above. So, go through step by step before you get to that point.

This worked for me, I got a letter from my GP practice saying I can register, I went to register and overall I have had no problems since registering.

This advice has been got through experience and research; please send your experience to so we can always improve our advice.

You can download this article here- getting a GP


One thought on “Registering with a GP as a boat dweller without a home mooring”

  1. As a former primary care worker I would suggest taking a copy of this post and the document ‘who pays’ (the link is in the article) with you and going in person. If you can choose a time when the reception desk is quiet – mid week, early afternoon for example. Prevention is so much better than cure! (Kate Saffin)


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