The Patient Choice Pilot scheme, which has been running since July, allows patients to register with a practice away from home. It also allows patients to attend a practice in another area as a day patient.
The scheme is being piloted in Manchester, Salford, Nottingham and across three PCT areas in London. The map below shows practices taking part in the pilot:
View GP choice pilots in a larger map
In Manchester eight out of 101 GP practices have signed up to the scheme. However, according to NHS Manchester just two patients have taken up the opportunity to attend a practice away from home.
NHS Salford reported that nine practices out of 51 had signed up to the pilot. They are yet to see any patients sign up to the scheme or attend as day patients.
NHS Westminster has seen the highest level of patient sign-up, with 34 patients joining the scheme. Out of the 53 practices in the area, 18 are taking part in the pilot.
In Nottingham, NHS Nottingham City said that seven practices out of a total 64 have signed up to the pilot. However, a spokeswoman for the PCT would not disclose how many patients were using the scheme.
Nottingham LMC chief executive Chris Locke said he did not think many patients would have signed up to the scheme. ‘There hasn’t been much publicity locally – I doubt they would have many patients at all.’
Mr Locke said that although Nottingham did have some commuters coming into the city, there may not be enough to warrant the pilot. ‘We thought the choice of Nottingham was a bit strange,’ he said.
Likewise Manchester LMC secretary Dr John Hughes said he was not surprised that no patients had used the scheme yet. ‘We never thought there would be a big uptake.’
Dr Hughes said he thought the pilots were politically driven, rather than addressing the needs of local patients. ‘Essentially this is a London issue,’ he added.
Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage said she hoped the DH would look carefully at the pilots once they were completed.
‘The whole point of a pilot is that you evaluate how good they are. If I was the DH I would wonder if the concept was flawed.’
Dr Drage said the DH could consider trialling the pilots on students, rather than commuters, because they often moved between home and university.
‘Are there other circumstances where this idea might work? For example university practices might be a good area where you could test it further.’
A DH spokesperson said: 'The legislation for the Patient Choice Scheme came into effect on the 30th April 2012 and we have issued guidance to the PCTs involved. GP practices are now approaching their PCTs if they wish to join the voluntary scheme. The pilots will last for one year and will be subjected to an independent evaluation organised by the DH.'
Since going to press, NHS Salford said that 4 patients had registered on the scheme and 1 day patient had been seen.