News, Culture & Society

More than 120,000 babies and young children in England don’t have a GP

Revealed: 120,000 children and toddlers are feared to not be registered with a GP and ‘may be missing life-saving health checks’

  • The number of under-fives on GP registers is lower than the population
  • Figures suggest there are 123,000 young children slipping through the net
  • Experts say it is ‘deeply concerning’ and children’s health could be at risk 

More than 120,000 babies and toddlers in England may not be registered with a doctor, NHS figures have revealed.

A gap in statistics suggests there are four per cent more under-fives than are registered at GP practices.

Experts say the difference is ‘deeply concerning’ and thousands of children could be missing out on ‘life-saving’ health checks and vaccinations.

And the doctors organisations’ have warned parents to make sure their young children are signed up to see a doctor regularly.

More than 120,000 are believed to not be registered with a GP practice in England, which experts say is concerning because they could miss out on vital vaccines and health checks

Figures released yesterday by NHS Digital showed there are around 3,262,000 babies and under-fives registered with English GP practices.

Whereas Office for National Statistics data from 2017 says there are 3,385,000 children in that age bracket.

This leaves an estimated difference of 123,000 – 3.6 per cent of the total number of babies and young children.

Children should be given regular health checks in the first two years of their lives and 10 vaccines before their second birthday.

‘I find it deeply concerning that so many children appear to be unregistered with a GP,’ said Professor Russell Viner, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

‘We are seeing an emergence of preventable and deadly diseases such as the measles, record levels of childhood obesity and its associated conditions.

‘And 34 per cent of all child deaths in the UK [are] considered avoidable – the vast majority of which are in infancy.’

The finding comes as vaccination rates in England are below the international standard and cases of measles have risen in the UK and across Europe.

Some 87 per cent of children over the age of five have had both doses of the MMR jab, according to last year’s data.

This is significantly fewer than the 95 per cent recommened by the World Health Organization to provide herd immunity and stop the infection spreading.

Professor Viner added: ‘Registering a child with a doctor can be life-saving or, at the very least, life-changing.

‘It will mean parents get important vaccination and health check reminders, their child’s weight and development monitored and concerns acted upon quickly.’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs added: ‘It’s vitally important that all children are registered with a GP.  

‘Both so they have access to all the recommended health checks and vaccinations that GPs and our teams deliver to babies and young children, and so their parents have somewhere trusted to turn when they fall ill.

‘There could be a number of explanations for the discrepancy between the two data-sets.

‘Some children might be privately registered, for example, but it is worrying to see that many newborn and young children might not be registered with a GP at all, and we’d encourage patients whose children aren’t to do so as soon as possible. 

‘It only takes a few minutes, is really straightforward, and could be life-saving.’ 


More than 2.5 million patients across England could see their GP surgeries close in the next five years, experts revealed last week.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said 762 practices in the UK are at risk of closing within the next five years because at least three quarters of their doctors are aged 55 or over and approaching retirement.

Experts said so many closures would have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on the health service. 

Appointment waiting times could get even longer, workloads would grow and more people could end up queueing at A&E for minor illnesses.

Campaigners warned the potential closures would be ‘dangerous’ for patients and are calling for ‘drastic action’ to encourage new GPs to join the profession.

The situation is worst in Southend in Essex, where 13 of the area’s 35 GP practices are at risk of closing, potentially affecting nearly 39,000 patients.

A third of surgeries in the London borough of Havering could shut down, and more than 85,000 patients could lose their GP in Sandwell and West Birmingham.

Only around a quarter of areas of England have no practices at risk of closure, according to the RCGP’s estimates.

Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners have revealed 762 GP practices across the UK are at risk of closing in the next five years (Map shows the proportion of surgeries in each area which are at risk of closing)

Figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners have revealed 762 GP practices across the UK are at risk of closing in the next five years (Map shows the proportion of surgeries in each area which are at risk of closing)