The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has distanced itself from reports claiming that GPs will be forced to work in deprived areas to tackle inequalities.
The Times today reported that GPs are ‘set to be barred from jobs in richer areas’ and forced to work in deprived areas instead.
It said the plans, put forward by a think tank, are being ‘considered by the Government’ after the health secretary pledged to tackle the ‘disease of disparity’ in September.
But a spokesperson for the DHSC told Pulse on background that the claims are not something they recognise and that the plans are not understood to be happening.
They stressed that the newspaper report is speculation but said they would not issue a formal statement or request a correction from the Times.
In a report published today, think tank the Social Market Foundation called for an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to establish an ‘Office for Equitable Distribution of GPs in England’, amid ‘widening health inequalities’.
It said ‘fair access’ for patients means ‘not letting GPs work where there are already more than enough GPs, and not letting GPs leave areas where there are not enough GPs, without having them replaced’.
It added: ‘Where GPs work should no longer be left entirely to market forces, as has happened for the past 20 years. But nor should GPs be told where they should work. They never have been, and any attempt to do so would be strongly opposed.
‘Financial incentives might be useful, though, to encourage new GPs to work in under-doctored areas.’
The paper did not address the overall ‘shortage of GPs and how to overcome [it]’.
It comes as a new PCN service specification tackling health inequalities started last month in a ‘reduced’ form, alongside another focussed on CVD diagnosis and prevention.
In September, NHS England set out that ‘expanding primary care capacity to improve access, local health outcomes and address health inequalities’ is one of six key priorities for the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, the new Office for Health and Improvement and Disparities (OHID) last month took over Public Health England’s (PHE) work on health inequalities in the UK.