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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

GP catchment areas to be scrapped 'by next autumn'

By Steve Nowottny

The Government is to abolish GP catchment areas in its latest bid to ramp up patient choice, it was announced today.

In a speech this morning in London, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that the current system of fixed practice boundaries would be scrapped within the next year, to allow patients to choose to register with any GP of their choice.

He said: 'In this day and age I can see no reason why patients should not be able to choose the GP practice they want.'

'Many of us lead hectic lives and health services should be there to make things easier. A busy mum needs flexibility - she may want to register at a practice near her children's school.'

'Equally, a commuter may want to register near to work. I want to them to be able to do this whilst ensuring that access to home visits won't be affected, wherever someone ends up registering.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said negotiatiors were 'open to discussing ways of improving patient choice.'

'The idea of getting rid of practice boundaries altogether has been discussed many times in the past, and we are happy to discuss it again.'

'However, major logistical barriers would need to be overcome for patients to be able to register with practices a long distance from home.'

Politicians of both parties have talked up the prospect of scrapping fixed boundaries in recent months. In May, Pulse revealed that the Department of Health had given PCTs the all clear to allow patients to register near their place of work but continue receiving care from a GP near their home.

And later that month, the shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley described fixed boundaries as a 'solid wall of defence against patient choice.'

Patients will be allowed to register with any GP practice of their choice, the Government announced todayv Patients will be allowed to register with any GP practice of their choice, the Government announced today

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