According to GPs including National Association of Primary Care chairman Dr James Kingsland, some PCTs have misunderstood the registration criteria of the newly created primary care access centres.
Instead of allowing patients who regularly attend the centres the choice of registering with them, PCTs are considering writing to tell them that after three visits they must register.
Dr Kingsland said: 'The access centres can register patients, but only if the patient wants. To force them to switch practices is against the rules, the most PCTs can do is ask them.'
The DoH has now written to PCTs, 'setting out a small number of core minimum criteria', said a spokesman.
He said: 'One of these is that patients should be able to register with the centre should they wish to, provided they live within its catchment area.'
He added that patients have a choice where they register and that the centres are meant to complement not replace existing GP services.
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Mike Dixon said: 'It may well be that PCTs would have a strong case in writing to patients that are visiting an access centre frequently to see if they want to register there instead. But the key word is "ask"'.
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