Exclusive: DoH plans for A&E units to charge practices

Practices could be charged for their patients visiting A&E departments, according to an SHA letter.

North Staffordshire LMC obtained the letter from West Midlands SHA to PCT chief executives suggesting GMS practices be charged for each unreferred patient who has to visit an alternative health centre.

The alternative health centres could become ‘quasi-GMS’ providers in areas with the worst access, the letter advised. North Staffordshire is among the worst 10 per cent of PCTs for access in England.

As part of a national project to improve access, patients could be allowed to register at A&E wards and pharmacies as an alternative to GP practices.

According to the letter, ‘recharging’ would mean GMS practices would be charged for patients who are seen elsewhere.

PCT chief executives were sent the letter detailing ideas to improve access that the DoH’s National Implementation Team (NIT) would be discussing on upcoming visits to the area.

A spokesman for West Midlands SHA said: ‘The suggestions were part of the NIT’s terms of reference for their visits to the SHA and some of our PCTs. They were listed in our letter in order to provide information for our PCTs about the national project. These included issues and topics that could be potentially explored by the NIT during the project and visits.

‘This is at an early stage and there are a range of potential options that could be explored before any firm proposals are developed.’

North Staffordshire LMC chairman and GP Dr David Hughes said: ‘We are aware of some radical thoughts at strategic level that have been passed down to the PCT for their consideration.’

A DoH spokesman said that Dr David Colin-Thome, leader of the national project on access, did not want to comment on ‘such a local issue’ and that the proposals were still at ‘an early discussion stage’.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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