Contract change could tackle boundary fears

Top Conservative GP says consortia should be able to refuse patients from outside their local area.

Dr Charlson: health tourism (Photograph: Pete Hill)
Dr Charlson: health tourism (Photograph: Pete Hill)

GP consortia should be able to refuse to treat patients with no link to a local area once practice boundaries are removed, the chairman of the Conservative Medical Society has said.

Dr Paul Charlson said this should be written into the GP contract to limit risks of 'health tourism' within England.

His comments came after warnings from leading GPs that removing boundaries was unworkable in tandem with the wider NHS reform programme.

Dr Charlson said it should be 'entirely reasonable' for GPs to refuse services to patients who have no link to the local area. He said: 'This doesn't have to be outlined in the Health Bill, it has to be in the GP contract.'

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with GP, Devon MP and GP Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative, Totnes) warned that GPs would struggle to define which services patients need if practice boundaries were removed. 'This is an area where it does make it more difficult to commission for patients who live outside your area,' she said.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada also warned that removing practice boundaries will widen health inequalities.

Despite the concerns, Dr Charlson said the DoH would continue with the plans.

Dr James Kingsland, DoH national clinical commissioning network lead for England, said the government should not stop the reforms because of the concerns. 'It is important to identify concerns and work out how we can solve them, rather than just stop a reform because we identify a problem,' he said.

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