Pilot schemes are being launched to enable patients to have more flexibility over registering with a GP close to their workplace.
An agreement between doctors and the government means NHS patients in England could switch to a GP at a more convenient location such as near their workplace, a relative they care for or close to a child’s school.
The deal also means patients who move a short distance away will be able to stay with their existing practice.
Doctors have also agreed to a pay freeze for 2012-13 under the agreement with the British Medical Association.
Labour first announced plans to relax the rules on GP registration and Andrew Lansley has long been in favour of the move.
Three areas will test the arrangements from April next year. These pilots will also evaluate plans for patients who are away from home to be able to use a GP surgery as a non-registered patient.
Mr Lansley said: “Patients often tell me that they want more choice over which practice they can register with, so I am pleased that this deal allows three major pilots to be launched across England that will allow patients to register at practices away from where they live, such as near to where they work.
“This will allow us to test and evaluate the issues that the profession has expressed concerns about.
“The deal will also mean that patients may not be forced to change GP surgery if they move locally.
“This will save up to three million people who move locally every year the hassle of re-registering as they can remain with the practice of their choice.”
The pilots will test two models.
In the first, patients will stay registered with their home practice but will be able to drop in to any GP surgery in the pilot area, essentially as a “temporary” resident.
In the second, patients will be able to register with a practice closer to work or another convenient place, but will not be registered with a practice near their home.
If they become ill and need a home visit, their local primary care trust will provide GP cover for them.