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'Many challenges' for plans to let patients choose their GP

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There are “many practical challenges” to overcome before plans to let people choose which NHS GP they see will work smoothly, a patients’ group has warned.

The National Association for Patient Participation has said it welcomes the principle of greater choice but that significant questions remain over plans that were announced last year.

It is unclear how services such as home visits will be allocated, although Health Secretary Andy Burnham has given an assurance that they would be protected as he plans to abolish catchment areas, allowing patients to pick any practice, such as one nearer their workplace.

Launching a Government consultation, Mr Burnham is giving health professionals and patients 12 weeks to put forward their own ideas for how the new system could operate.

The co-ordination of community-based services, safeguarding access for people to hospital and specialist treatment, are also in question.

Mr Burnham said: “We would like to hear from patients, GPs and practice staff with their views on the new system.”

The Tories are already committed to abolishing fixed practice boundaries and have criticised Labour for not acting sooner.

But Mr Burnham said Conservative plans to restore GPs’ right to decide evening and weekend hours would reduce choice by putting up to five million appointment slots at risk.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • the main issue with catchment areas has got to be the time needed for home visits/emergency calls. as long as patients are aware they will NOT be visited at home there really shouldn't be a problem. apart from simple things like more service users for walk in centres and more wasted resources and lack of continuity.... nothing new there then...

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  • Martin Gray

    How could such a system work efficiently? Home visits ARE a major problem, as is seeing patients at WICs unless staff working in them have access to the patient records ( System One does now make this possible where it has been taken up). And wouldn't the good GPs be overwhelmed with requests from patients to be placed on their lists? Patients still like to be seen by one doctor and become disgruntled if they are unable to get an appointment with that doctor, one of the biggest problems in large group practices. This government initiative will not stop that; people prefer the old 'family' GP rather than the group set-ups as they want to have continuity of care and form a relationship with their GP.

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