In a great NHS, everybody should be able to choose the best and most convenient service for themselves and their families. We believe people should have the freedom to choose their own GP practice, and not be faced by artificial restrictions, like practice boundaries, that limit choice.
Our overriding objective is to deliver the best possible service to patients. People want healthcare that is more personalised and convenient, so primary care services must respond to provide this.
The Department is commencing today a national consultation on the proposals to enable people to register with a GP practice of their choice. The proposals have been developed following a period of initial engagement with stakeholders from the NHS, professional groups, and patient representatives.
Most people are likely to want to continue to be registered with a local GP practice that can offer home visits when necessary and is well placed to co-ordinate care with other local agencies. The proposals in the consultation document are designed to build on these existing strengths of general practice and indeed give people a greater choice of local GP practices.
In a smaller number of cases, some people may want to choose a GP practice further away from home. for instance near their workplace, that enables them to have more convenient access to primary care and to have greater continuity of care than they have at present. The options in the consultation look in particular at the issues involved in arranging home visits, where needed, for people in this group, together with issues of access to urgent care, co-ordination of community-based services, access to hospital and specialist treatment and patient records.
The options identified in relation to home visiting arrangements are:
GP practices to continue to have responsibility for home visiting for local patients. PCTs will make arrangements to provide home visits, where necessary, for patients who register further away from home;
maintain the requirement for GP practices to provide or secure home visits for all patients on their list, regardless of where they live;
allow patients to register with two separate GP practices; or
remove all home visiting obligations from GP practices and make PCTs responsible for establishing home visiting arrangements.
The consultation document recommends the first of these options. It would allow people to register with any GP practice in England with an open list. There would be a simple set of principles to distinguish between the majority of patients who are registering locally (where the local GP practice would retain the duty to provide or secure home visits where necessary) and a small number of patients who are registering further away from home (for whom other home visiting arrangements would be needed).
A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.