Call our free helpline0808 808 3555
Call our free helpline
0808 808 3555
Primary care is the local healthcare that we receive from
General Practitioner (GP) practices, NHS walk-in centres, dentists,
pharmacists and opticians. Primary health care provides the first
point of contact in the healthcare system.
It is the route by which we most commonly access other parts of
the NHS, for example, hospital care.
Your GP is often the first doctor you talk to if you have any
concerns about your child. GPs usually work in GP practices as part
of a team, which can include:
Your GP practice can provide a wide range of services
They might refer your child to be seen by other health
professionals if more specialist knowledge is needed.
GP practices keep a medical record for all their patients, which
includes information about any medical conditions, tests and
prescribed medicines. If your child is seen by other specialists,
they should keep your GP informed about the results of any tests
they carried out and any recommended treatment.
You can find out how to register with a GP
by going to the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk
Why your GP is
Children with disabilities are just like any other children and
can get all the usual childhood illnesses and infections. However,
normal childhood illness can have different and sometimes greater
impacts on a child with an existing medical condition or
disability. In these instances, you may be tempted to first seek
advice from a paediatrician (specialist children's consultants)
when your child is ill.
In fact, often your GP can be a vital point of contact, no
matter your child's condition, disability or illness. GPs are
'general' practitioners, and while they may not have a wide
knowledge of all childhood disabilities, they will know about
general childhood illnesses. They are also the one medical
professional that is sent every letter, report or result that
relates to your child.
They will have a good knowledge of all the appointments that
your child attends. It is also likely that you and any other
children you have are registered at the same GP practice, so they
will have a good understanding of your whole family, not just your
So getting to know your GP and encouraging them to get to know
your child can be a worthwhile venture. They can then provide
holistic support to your whole family as well as supporting you to
navigate the heathcare system with your disabled child.
Building a relationship with your
It can be daunting building a relationship with your GP. Here
are some tips that can help:
It may take you a few attendances in order for the wider
practice staff to get to know you and your child, but it is worth
the effort. A supportive GP and practice staff can reduce the
stress of managing your child when they are unwell.
If you find that you are not being accommodated in your
requests, you can always change your GP practice.
Can I change my GP?
You can change your GP at any time without having to give a
reason to the new surgery or to your old GP. If you are in a
practice you may be able to see another GP at that surgery.
If you are unhappy about the service provided by your GP
practice, or disagree with the way your GP wants to treat a health
problem, it is best to try to speak to them about it before
deciding to change GP. If you feel uncomfortable about this you can
always ask to speak to the GP practice manager instead.
What if my local GP practice refuses to register my
A surgery can refuse an application to
register you or your child if you don't live in the surgery area or
if it is not accepting new patients. If they do, they must have
reasonable grounds and you must be given reasons in writing.
If this happens, you can try registering with a different GP, or
you can complain to NHS England, who are responsible for ensuring
you are able to register with a GP.
Shortly after having a baby you will receive a visit from a
member of the Healthy Child team, usually a health visitor. A
health visitor is a nurse who has undertaken extra training to work
with families in the community.
The Healthy Child team, led by a health visitor, includes people
with different skills and experience, such as nursery nurses,
children's nurses and early years support staff. They will work
closely with your GP and local children's centre.
The team delivers the Healthy Child programme to all children
between the ages of 0 to five. The programme includes a series of
appointments where your child's development will be reviewed, and
they will be given vaccinations. The reviews are also an
opportunity for you to ask questions and discuss any concerns you
may have, and the team can also give practical advice on day-to-day
matters such as feeding, sleep and teething.
Either your GP surgery, local clinic or children's centre will
offer you an appointment. Some reviews may be done in your
To find information about dentists in your area, you can search
online at www.nhs.uk/dentists. Dental
practices can take private and NHS patients, and most take
To get NHS dental treatment, contact a
practice providing NHS dentistry and ask for an NHS appointment.
When you have been accepted for treatment by an NHS dentist you
will then be a patient of that provider (a practice of one or more
dentists working under contract to NHS England) for the duration of
your course of treatment. You can then choose either to use the
same dentist or to use another dentist under the same provider, or
even another provider on future occasions, if you prefer.
Urgent and out-of-hours dental treatment
If you think your child might need urgent treatment and you have
a dentist, you should contact your dentist on the usual number.
They will usually have an answerphone message telling you where to
You could also call the NHS non-emergency number on 111.
The Community Dental Service (CDS) provides treatment for
disabled people including those with learning disabilities, mental
health needs or other conditions that may prevent them from
visiting a local dental practice.
Some CDS will accept a self referral; others will only accept a
referral from your GP or a General Dental Practitioner. To find out
how to access your nearest CDS, contact your GP or local dentist.
More information about NHS dentist services can be found by going
to the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk and selecting 'dental
Ophthalmic practitioners carry out eye tests to check the
quality of their patient's vision and eye health. They can also
prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. They are trained to
recognise abnormalities and signs of any eye disease, and if
necessary they will refer patients onto a specialist doctor or eye
surgeon for further advice and treatment.
All children's sight tests are free under the NHS. More
information about NHS optician services can be found by going to
the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk and selecting 'eye care
Children can consider their own visual experience to be
'normal', so might not complain about visual symptoms such as
blurred vision or eye strain. It may not be possible for a disabled
child to express that something is wrong with their vision due to
language difficulties, so it's important they have regular eye
Instead of going to an optician, your child might be able to
have their eyes tested at the local eye hospital, depending on
their needs and the services in your local area. Talk to your
optometrist, optician, GP or paediatrician who can advise you about
the most appropriate arrangement for an eye test.
We also support Northern Ireland and Scotland. Give our helpline
a call on 0808 808 3555 for information and advice on any aspect of
raising a disabled child, or call your local contact. Find out our
details in the Contact in your area section.