Removing general practice boundaries will increase bureaucracy and costs at a time when the new government is under pressure to make savings, doctors’ leaders have warned.
The coalition government has pledged to “give every patient the right to choose to register with the GP they want, without being restricted by where they live” – retaining a policy announced by former health secretary Andy Burnham in September.
But British Medical Association chair Dr Hamish Meldrum questioned the wisdom of the policy in the current economic climate, saying that allowing patients to register with any GP they liked would “in reality, be very complex [and] potentially more expensive”.
He questioned how the allocation of practice resources by primary trusts would work under such a policy and suggested it would not be feasible to run such a complex system without the troubled electronic care record being in place first.
The pledge was one of four directly affecting primary care provision – the others being to strengthen the role of GPs as commissioners, to ensure universal access to out of hours services and to renegotiate the GP contract to incentivise working in disadvantaged areas.
Asked what the BMA would be seeking in return for these changes, Dr Meldrum said he wanted reassurance that doctors would have a real hand in decision making rather than “token” clinical involvement.
Dr Medrum said: “We do welcome government intention to give more power back to health professionals.”
The former administration launched a consultation on removing practice boundaries in March. The coalition government has retained these proposals and extended the consultation deadline until 2 July.