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Abolishing practice boundaries ‘a red herring’ says top NHS leader

By Nigel Praities

Exclusive: Plans to scrap practice boundaries proposed by the previous government and supported by the Conservatives are a ‘red herring' that would benefit only a small number of patients, a senior NHS leader has warned.

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, told Pulse proposals to get rid of boundaries were ‘irrelevant' to the urgent task of setting up larger GP organisations able to take on care from hospitals.

It is the first time the NHS Confederation has publically criticised the totemic policy, which was also in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

‘It's a red herring,' Mr Edwards said at an RCGP policy debate. ‘The more you think about it, the less abolishing practice boundaries makes sense.

‘There are a small number of patients [who would benefit], it is an obsession of policy makers, but I would concentrate on other things. I would prioritise getting the GPs to work together.'

Mr Edwards said the priority had to be to achieve efficiency savings by moving hospital care into the community. He was responding to questions over whether the practice boundaries policy conflicted with moves to set up GP federations, by emphasising the need to preserve a wide choice of practice for patients.

Professor Steve Field told the meeting the introduction of GP federations would standardise care and get rid of the need for practice boundaries.

Meanwhile, the Dispensing Doctors Association warned in its response to the Government's consultation that the policy ‘could affect the viability of some rural practices' if ‘market towns suck up patients who commute from the villages'.

Practice boundaries is a 'red herring' says top NHS leader