In its response to the DoH’s consultation ‘Your choice of GP practice’, the RCGP said around three-quarters of its members were strongly against the proposals to allow people to register with a GP regardless of catchment area.
The RCGP said the ‘most significant and overarching concern’ of its members is that the proposals would lead to the fragmentation of co-ordinated care.
It also raised concerns that removing practice boundaries could make the provision of general practice ‘very unstable’ and lead to an increased risk of vulnerable children ‘falling through the net’.
The RCGP said its ‘preferred option’ is to maintain the current system of ‘limited walk-in services’ and longer opening hours.
It said: ‘We strongly recommend the development of GP practices working together in primary care federations as a way to offer improved service delivery and patient access in the community.
‘This has the potential to offer patients improved access and the flexibility over extended areas, including access to out-of-hours care.’
Meanwhile, the NHS Confederation said the consultation is 'right to identify the continuing difficulty some patients have in accessing GP services'.
But it also raised concerns about the DoH's plans, outlining a tension in the proposals between offering unrestricted patient choice and providing GPs with the freedom to design their services as they choose.
Dr David Stout, the NHS Confederation's PCT Network Director, said: 'When GP consortia become responsible for commissioning care for the patients on their practices’ lists, the question of whether or not it is mandatory for GPs to accept distant patients onto their lists will become crucial.'