Exclusive Almost 40% of GP practices are willing to dilute their practice boundaries and accept out-of-area patients under the Government’s flagship policy to allow patients to choose any GP, an NHS England survey has shown.
NHS England area teams in the north, Midlands and east of England surveyed GP practices in their area finding that the percentage of practices willing to take on out-of-area patients ranged from just one fifth (20%) in Merseyside to over half (51%) in Hertfordshire and the south Midlands.
Practices are able to take on patients out of their practice boundaries under a change in the GP contract last year.
Broken down by area, the survey found the practices willing to register out-of-area patients were as follows:
- Hertfordshire and South Midlands: 71 out of 137 (52%) practices
- Lancashire: 104 out of 230 (45%)
- Durham, Darlington and Tees: 53 out of 169 (31%)
- Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear: 122 out of 301 (41%)
- Merseyside: 63 out of 240 (26%)
- Greater Manchester: 197 practices out of 495 (40%)
Home visits for patients registered out-of-area are meant to be covered by a new enhanced service that pays practices £60 for a home visit. But just 4% of London GP practices have signed up when the policy went live last month, and the GPC has warned this could affect patient safety.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘Whilst some practices are prepared to accept patients from outside the area, it’s clear that many more remain concerned about the implications of doing so. However at the moment practices cannot be sure that a home visiting service is in place should their patient need one because area teams are failing to do what they should have already done.’
He added: ‘What area teams are finding is that it’s difficult to provide a comprehensive service across an area just relying on the enhanced service arrangements. So they do need to look at some broader measure to ensure they do have some comprehensive service, because at the moment it doesn’t appear to be a safe service, there’s very patchy service across the country.’