Practice boundary reforms delayed

The DoH has delayed its report on how GP practice boundaries will be abolished, amid speculation that it is struggling to decide how to implement the policy.

Dr Paul Charlson: the DoH is finding it 'difficult to work out a system that will stand up to scrutiny'
Dr Paul Charlson: the DoH is finding it 'difficult to work out a system that will stand up to scrutiny'

A DoH response to the Greater Choice and Control consultation was due last month but a spokesman said responses were 'still being analysed'.

Dr Paul Charlson, Conservative Medical Society chairman, said the DoH was finding it 'difficult to work out a system that will stand up to scrutiny'.

One compromise that was 'gaining credence' would allow patients to register with any GP within their local consortium, he said. 'That way, a payment or written agreement is made between practices that one will provide home visits,' he said.

Meanwhile, a GP poll this month shows three quarters of the profession think plans to scrap practice boundaries should be dropped.

Of the 288 respondents, only 18 per cent thought removing boundaries was compatible with other policies in the Health Bill.

One respondent said it was a 'nice idea and a great vote-grabber, but not a service that can be provided - the practicalities just do not work'.

But not all respondents agreed. 'I can see the benefits of being able to see any GP but this will only be safe if the GP has access to all the patient's medical notes, said one. 'I don't know if systems are sophisticated enough to be able to deal with this.'

A DoH spokesman said the consultation had received more than 800 responses and the government would respond 'shortly'.

All three main political parties back the abolition of practice boundaries to boost patient choice of where to register.

But the BMA has insisted the policy will be either unworkable or prohibitively expensive, as patients may still require home visits even if they are registered with a GP far away.

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