Dear Jeremy Hunt,
I am a GP in Tower Hamlets. I sent you three successive emails (7/9/13; 13/10/13; 11/1/14) warning of the risks of your government’s flagship policy to abolish GP practice boundaries. I received 3 non-replies from the Department of Health (see links below).
I am now writing to bring to your attention not potential future risks but a significant current actual risk. As you may know, the policy was rolled out (very quietly) on 5 January 2015. The intended start was for October 2014 but this was postponed until 5/1/15 because, in the words of a spokeperson for NHS England in September 2014.
‘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.’
I have discovered that there are no ‘robust arrangements’ in place in London; in fact there are no arrangements. I have sampled three separate NHS 111 London sites and none of them were aware of the policy having been implemented, and none of them had a list of local GPs who had signed up for the out of area Enhanced Service. I was told that a patient not registered with a local GP would, if they needed to see a doctor in hours, be advised to go to an urgent care centre or to A+E. If the patient was too ill and needed a visit, one of the supervisors told me, they would have to use SOS Doctor Direct and then bill the patient’s GP surgery for the cost.
This is an unsafe situation. Why has this been allowed to happen? I have emailed NHS England about this but have not had a reply.
Incidentally, in 2 of my emails to you I asked a number of quite specific questions about the alleged benefit of parents registering near their child’s school; the Department of Health did not answer these questions. I have now created a video illustrating how this proposal, which might sound attractive on the surface, simply does not work and would actually create problems for a family. That you, the Department of Health, and NHS England should be encouraging people to sign up to something fundamentally flawed is truly surreal.
I do not expect you to do anything about this; I expect, at best, a ‘non-reply’ from the Department of Health. But I am writing so that it is at least on the record.
The Tredegar Practice
35 St Stephens Road