Patient choice may be part of GP contract

The DoH is considering changing the GMS contract to make it obligatory for GPs to offer patients a choice of provider.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley: plans to increase patient choice (Photograph: Pete Hill)
Health secretary Andrew Lansley: plans to increase patient choice (Photograph: Pete Hill)

In a consultation document on 'greater choice and control' in the NHS, the DoH states that it is 'considering consulting the BMA' on the changes.

The consultation was published alongside plans for an 'information revolution' to support patient choice.

It would 'require general practices to offer their patients a choice of healthcare provider when they are referred for their first outpatient appointment'.

The contract would also change to ensure 'GPs register patients regardless of where they live if their registration list is open', effectively removing practice boundaries.

In a summary of responses to a survey on GP choice, 77 per cent of respondents support plans to scrap practice boundaries, but 70 per cent oppose it.

The report says 'many people support the idea in principle but were concerned that the issues would be difficult to overcome'.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said he had not heard of specific proposals to enforce choice using the contract.

'Most patients want to be seen at a local hospital and some just look puzzled when you start offering a choice,' he said.

He called for the DoH to 'listen to our concerns' about removing practice boundaries before pressing ahead with any proposals.

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