Pilot scheme to abolish practice boundaries

A PILOT scheme to allow patients to register with a GP practice of their choice is being piloted in England.

Patients in parts of London, Manchester and Nottingham will be able to register or receive a consultation out-with the boundaries of their local practice under plans announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

The scheme is expected to appeal to commuters who want to see a GP close to their place of work and also to patients who choose to stay with an existing GP practice even if they move to a home out of the area. The pilot begins in April and will last for one year.

Health Secretary Lansley said: "Many patients are happy with their local GP practice, but a significant minority have problems registering with a practice of their choice. This pilot will mean patients taking part can access the high quality care they deserve in a place and at a time that suits them.

"That’s why I believe patients should have the freedom to choose a GP practice that suits their lives, and not be restricted by geographical boundaries."

But there is still significant opposition to the move among doctors. In March 2011, the RCGP’s Dr Clare Gerada wrote to Andrew Lansley regarding her concerns. In the letter she stated: "Our members are very concerned that the sudden, across-the-board removal of practice boundaries will have unintended consequences and will be detrimental to patient care: in particular the fragmentation of care and risks to patient safety. In addition, the changes will lead to practice and workforce instability and the potential closures of rural practices which will perversely detract from the very essence of choice.

She added: "There are simple, cost-effective solutions to meet the wants of people who wish to have access to more than one practice or are unable to see a GP close to home."