The Government is pressing ahead with plans to dilute practice boundaries, by allowing patients to remain with GP practices if they move a fixed distance out of the registered area and, for some areas, abolishing boundaries completely.
From next April, GPs will be able to agree with their PCT an outer boundary where they will retain, where clinically appropriate, existing patients who have moved into the outer boundary area and want to stay with the practice.
In addition, practice boundaries will be scrapped within certain areas under large-scale pilot schemes established under the new GP contract.
Next year ‘commuters' in ‘two or three cities' will be able to choose a practice anywhere within the boundary of the pilot, while patients who move house will be able to remain with their existing practice even if they are no longer.
According to a joint NHS Employers and BMA statement, the one-year GP pilot will test two models by which patients in England can have more choice over which GP practice they use.
‘Patients will be able to choose a GP practice near where they work or elsewhere as long as it is within the two or three cities in the trial area (which are not yet announced). This will give them far greater flexibility than the existing option that limits people to having GPs near where they live.'
The move will also change ‘what happens if a patient moves a short distance, allowing many people, where clinically appropriate, to stay in their current GP practice even if they move home - which is important to many patients,' the document said.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Most GPs were against the complete abolition of practice boundaries because of the potential negative impact on continuity of care, so we're pleased that we have been able to agree this alternative which will help commuters as well as patients who move out of a practice's boundary but want to stay registered. It will be important to learn from the results of the pilots.'
Story updated 13:15