Editorial - GP practices need guidance on choice pilots

Government policy to abolish practice boundaries has long been an issue of much concern for GPs. Will 'home' practices risk becoming destabilised if their commuter patients are seen elsewhere?

Will city practices be able to cope with a sudden influx of the mobile unwell? Do the IT systems exist to enable the sharing of patient records between practices?

As far back as 2009, the then RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field memorably denounced the idea as 'crazy' during the annual RCGP conference in Glasgow despite DH claims that the college backed the plan.

The GPC has also warned that allowing patients to be seen by practices near their place of work rather than only those near their home address would be complicated to implement, more expensive than current arrangements and unwise in the NHS's current financial situation.

However in January health secretary Andrew Lansley revealed choice pilots would begin in London, Manchester and Nottingham from April and practice enrolment would be voluntary.

Struggle to recruit practices
LMCs initially warned that the pilots would struggle to recruit practices. Yet at a time when practice funding is tight, it's perfectly reasonable for GPs in those areas to be considering how they might benefit from the extra £2m funding available.

This week, GP reveals that practices are considering pulling out of the pilots because of the lack of available detail as the April launch draws ever closer (see related articles).

At the time of writing, GP was told the guidance that practices are crying out for was 'imminent'. Do keep an eye on our website GPonline.com for the latest news.

If it has been published by the time you read this, all well and good. If not, it would appear by alienating practices interested in a controversial government policy, Mr Lansley has succeeded in scoring another spectacular own goal.

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