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Government to press ahead with boundaries reform

By Gareth Iacobucci

The new Government is to press ahead with controversial proposals to abolish GP practice boundaries, quashing speculation that the plans would be put on the back burner by the new administration.

The Department of Health has confirmed that the previous Government's consultation on the proposals would continue, and would only be slightly delayed by one month before closing on July 2.

The news comes despite speculation that the plans, launched by former health secretary Andy Burnham last September, would be shelved while the new Government deals with more pressing issues including the huge debt facing public services.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have backed reform to the current boundaries system in bid to expand patient choice, despite widespread misgivings from GPs about the logistical barriers to the move, and the threat to continuity of care.

But although the consultation will run almost as planned, many GPs believe the timeframe for implementing the changes by this autumn is certain to slip.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman told GPs at the Surrey and Sussex LMCs earlier this week: ‘I think we can forget that. We're looking at a much longer timescale.'

The previous Government's preferred option in its consultation would allow patients to register anywhere they choose, but create a dual-track registration, with only those living close to practices qualifying for GP visits.

But the GPC is submitting a compromise proposal that would focus on changes to the ‘temporary resident' arrangements.

Pratcice boundaries