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Government to look at extending choice of GP ‘more widely’

The Government is to look at how it can extend its pilots to relax GP practice boundaries for commuters ‘more widely’ and introduce video consultations as part of plans to extend patient choice.

As part of a major public consultation launched today about improving out-of-hospital services for patients, the Department of Health said it will consider how the findings from the evaluation of the recent GP patient choice pilot can ‘help extend choice more widely’.

But the GPC has said that the poor uptake from patients in the Government’s £2m pilot scheme, which saw a number of practice removing their practice boundaries, has already proved there is little demand from the public for the scheme.

A Pulse investigation in January this year showed that nine months into the pilot, only 514 patients had signed up across the four big-city region trial areas in England.

It said that in addition to offer choice about the location and types of services people access, patients should have the option to speak with their GP or nurse not just face-fo-face or over the phone, but also via email or video consultations.

The document says: ‘Delivering our ambition will mean offering more choice and control to patients, carers and families. We will consider how the findings of the evaluation of the recent GP patient choice pilot can help extend choice more widely.’

‘We will explore how we can go further in encouraging new provider models that will offer meaningful choice about the location and types of service people need, including choice of seeing your preferred GP or nurse. This includes having the option to speak with them over e-mail, telephone, video or face-to-face consultations.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey commented: ‘We have always said about the evaluation of the choice pilot - and you have reported in the past - how poor the uptake has been in the pilot and how little desire from the vast majority of patients for this.

‘These policies are being driven forward despite the evidence showing that people don’t actually want them or need them.’

As previously revealed by Pulse, the House of Commons Health Committee is also going to review the scheme.