Exclusive: Not a single practice has begun offering commuters the chance to register near their work under the Government’s much-trumpeted ‘patient choice’ pilot scheme.
The Government has previously said the scheme to test the abolition of GP practice boundaries would begin ‘during April 2012′, but some areas say they won’t be ready until later in the year.
The pilots to allow patients to either register or attend as an out-of-area patient near their workhave been thrown into disarray by a practice boycott and continuing uncertainty about local arrangements.
All the six pilot areas told Pulse that no practice had yet formally agreed to participate in the scheme, although some areas had expressions of interest.
A spokesperson for NHS East London and the City cluster told Pulse that no practices had signed up to date to take part in the pilot following a call from LMC leaders on local practices to boycott the scheme.
A spokesperson said: ‘We don’t have any because of the LMCs.’
‘We are to identify the best way to cater for the potentially large population of commuters who may be interested. We are hopeful of having a solution in place later in the pilot year.’
Both NHS Manchester and NHS Salford said they were awaiting further guidance from DH on the contract variations needed for practices wishing to participate.
A spokesman for NHS Salford said: ‘We are taking formal plans out to practices at the moment, we hope we’ll have everything running for the pilots at the start of June. 13 practices have expressed an interest.’
NHS Westminster said the process of signing up practices was ‘still being worked through’ and a spokesperson for the Nottinghamshire cluster, where the Nottingham City pilot is due to take place, said no practices had signed up.
He added: ‘We are meeting with GP practices who have expressed an interest later in May.’
Chris Locke, secretary of Nottinghamshire LMC, told Pulse the practices were concerned over hospital care for commuter patients.
‘They are not happy with the money situation. Even if the money that they are paid is ok, there is no allowance made for use of hospital resources by those patients that register with them.’
Dr Deborah Colvin, chair of City and Hackney LMC, said they had yet to receive response from the PCT on their call for practices to boycott the scheme. ‘I don’t know what they’ve decided since we set out the letter.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The legislation for the Patient Choice Scheme came into effect on the 30 April 2012. Practices can now approach their PCTs if they wish to join the scheme.’
Pilots lack progress
Nottingham – Meeting with practices ‘later in May’
Westminster – Cannot confirm numbers ‘until next week’
Manchester – Service level agreement ‘still to be finalised’
Salford – Hope to be ready ‘at the start of June’
East London and the City – Hopeful of having a solution ‘later in the pilot year’