This site is intended for health professionals only

MPs to investigate practice boundary pilots

MPs will investigate whether Government’s flagship scheme to out-of-area patients to register with GP practices has increased patient choice, Pulse has learnt.

Stephen Dorrell, chair of the House of Commons Health Committee, said the committee will look into the ‘GP Choice Pilot’ as part of its ongoing review into the Government’s health reforms.

The so-called GP Choice Pilot, which included four large city areas around England, has been extended to run until September this year after being slow to begin.

But despite the impending review, it has already featured as part of the NHS England business plan published last week. NHS England said it intends to apply the ‘successes’ of the GP Choice Pilot more widely.

The NHS England business plan says: ‘Some patients find it more convenient to access GP services away from home. We will evaluate the results of the GP choice pilots and consider how we can apply successes more widely.’

Pulse previously reported that the pilot still had relatively poor uptake among patients, with just 500 patients registering, as of January this year.

Mr Dorrell said: ‘It is part of a review of the implementation of the Act. This is a policy of course that has been around for a lot longer than the Health and Social Care Act but to the extent that there is a change in the commissioning process for general practice we can certainly get it in under the terms of reference.’

He added that he was broadly in favour of the policy: ‘Where there is choice different people will have different ways of solving the problem and provided that they are all consistent with the commitment to universal delivery of high quality care then I think that the [option] which allows people to consider different ways of solving shared problems is in the interests of all patients.’

Mr Dorrell said the committee will report on its review into the Act’s implementation during the third quarter of the year.

The review comes after Dr George Farrelly, a GP in Bow in east London and a long-standing campaigner against the policy, wrote to the Health Committee last week, urging them to review the project.

He wrote: ‘At first I thought the politicians and the policy makers were just uninformed, unaware of just how misguided the policy was. But I now think that the evidence (evidence that is in the public domain) points towards a more disturbing process at work: that there is a hidden agenda behind this policy.

‘My hypothesis is that the real aim here is to de-regulate general practice. At present, because it is geographically defined, it limits the type of business model that can be used to gain access to general practice. By removing the geographical element in primary care, you change significantly the business models and frameworks that can be applied.’