Six months of Safe Surgeries!

Published 7th November 2018

Word is spreading! Just 6 months after launching the initiative, over 70 GP practices from nine cities across the UK have joined the Doctors of the World (DOTW) Safe Surgeries network. We welcomed our first CCG on board, our first GP Federation, and our first safe super-partnership. We trained over 1,200 people, including the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership who are responsible for commissioning primary care for 2.8 million patients and we held a session at the 6th Annual London GP Trainee Conference.

Working hard to engage third sector organisations, local authorities and patients in the West Midlands, we held a Safe Surgeries launch event attended by 50 healthcare professionals and commissioners which led to 16 practices joining the network. We continue to work with partners in Newcastle and Leeds to embed change one practice at a time, both of which (alongside Bradford, Norwich, Cambridge and Worthing) have gained their first Safe Surgeries since the last time you heard from us. Meanwhile, in London we’ve been helping to develop Lewisham’s new Safe Hub initiative and, with OneHealth Lewisham, we welcomed our first safe GP federation. We also shared borough-level data on registration refusals with every CCG and public health team, alongside a copy of our Safe Surgeries toolkit – so watch this space!

Why Safe Surgeries?

We know that, across the country, general practice is committed to providing excellent care to all patients. We have seen surgeries determined to resist administrative practices, such as visa checking and insisting on ID and proof of address, that turn their surgeries into unwelcoming environments for patients who don’t have paperwork. The good news is, the guidance from NHS England is on the side of the thousands of doctors and receptionists who want to prioritise the health of their patients and keep their surgeries safe for everyone.

DOTW launched the Safe Surgeries initiative to support general practice to provide holistic care to patients, like refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, and homeless people, who are often unable to provide documents. We provide resources, training and health policy updates, and we connect participating practices to each other to share their experiences.

The Safe Surgeries network was designed to support the most pivotal people in NHS access; primary care staff. Safe Surgeries don’t refuse to register patients without proof of address documentation or proof of identification. They never ask to see a visa or proof of immigration status. Staff do what they can to reassure patients that their personal information is safe and they use an interpreter when needed. They display posters reassuring patients that the surgery is a safe space and they empower frontline staff with training and an inclusive registration policy.

By following these steps (detailed in the Safe Surgeries toolkit), primary care staff can ensure that everybody can access a healthcare when they need it. 

If your practice would like to sign up to the initiative or for more information, please email


With your support, Doctors of the World will make sure nobody suffers or dies due to lack of access to healthcare.