The Coalition Government is clearly intent on abolishing on GP practice boundaries: in their Interim Review they recently listed the GP boundary-free pilot as one of three areas that showed that they had ‘Improved the NHS’, by
allowing patients in six trial primary care trusts to register or receive a consultation with a GP practice of their choice. (page 24)
This is a most misleading claim: in reality 2 of the 6 PCTs have boycotted the pilot; of 345 GP practices in these PCTs, 42 practices have opted in to the pilot; at a recent count, 514 patients had registered with a practice, more than half in the London Borough of Westminster. These are small numbers. The DH and Government say they are going to ‘independently evaluate’ this pilot, but I fear that this will mean merely asking those (few) patients who registered with a practice how they found the experience. Of course, they will say they liked the opportunity to choose a practice near work, etc. The evaluation will almost certainly not evaluate or comment on the merits of the policy as a whole.
What can GPs do? I have written a series of articles for Pulse on this issue, and the 6th article addressed this question.
One thing we can do is to put pressure on the Health Select Committee to scrutinise this policy carefully. This would shine a light on the policy, the way it has been promoted with groundless and bogus claims, the way the public and Parliament have been misled, the way in which it will harm primary care in England.
If you are a GP, please sign the petition calling on the Health Select Committee to investigate the policy.