GP contract reforms agreed for 2014/15 set out plans to introduce this flexibility from October, but NHS England officials have said area teams ‘need more time’.
Plans to relax GP practice boundaries to allow out-of-area patients to register were intended to boost GP access, for example by helping commuters register at a practice near work.
But the GPC called for a delay in the rollout of the scheme, warning that local areas must have systems in place to provide care for patients registering with practices away from where they live at times when they were too ill to travel and required home visits.
GPC backs delay
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GP: ‘It is good that we have been listened to.’
He said the delay would allow area teams to put in place systems for coping with these patients when they were unable to travel to the practices they were registered at.
Area teams may wish to commission out-of-hours organisations to provide cover, or set up enhanced services to fund local practices to do so.
‘We need every practices in every area to have clarity about what arrangements will be in place for these patients,’ said Dr Vautrey.
Local services must be ready
‘Every part of the country has to have a service in place before any patient can be allowed to register out of their local area.’
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘This has been an ambitious piece of work designed to increase the flexibility that patients have in choosing their GP.
‘With such a change, we have to be completely assured that robust arrangements are in place across the country should patients who register with a GP outside their area need urgent in-hours primary medical care at or near home.
‘This has been a big undertaking and we have taken the decision that more time is needed to ensure these arrangements are fully bedded-in - a decision that has been taken in the best interests of GP practices and patients.’