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Practice boundaries debate set to dominate LMCs conference

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GP's opposition to the Government's abolition of practice boundaries is set to dominate the agenda at year's annual LMC conference, Pulse can reveal.

A groundswell of discontent at the plans is growing in the profession, with a raft of LMCs tabling motions calling for the controversial policy to be halted, amid fears that it will severely damage continuity of care and prove unaffordable in the current financial climate.

The mobilisation in GP opposition follows ministers' proposals to create a ‘two-tier' system of general practice – with patients choosing between full home visiting services and easy access from their workplace.

The Government's preferred option in its practice boundaries consultation – which closes at the end of next month – would usher in dual-track registration, with only those living close to practices qualifying for GP visits.

But the GPC favours making national changes in the ‘temporary resident' arrangements, which would allow unregistered patients to be treated by a distant practice on an ‘ad hoc' basis.

Dr Rob Barnett, GPC member and secretary of Liverpool LMC, which is submitting a motion opposing the plans, said there was widespread concerned about the ‘unforeseen consequences' of the policy.

‘We are concerned about the potential destabilising effect on certain practices and the fragmentation of care,' he said.

‘As there's no money in the system, if patients are registering at another practice, there's going to have to be a transfer of resources. Do we really want to see fewer practices where people live?'

Elsewhere, Cleveland LMC has tabled a motion calling for existing practice boundaries to be maintained, while Nottinghamshire LMC is demanding that the policy to be shelved until the consequences have been properly assessed.

Chris Locke, secretary of Nottinghamshire LMC, said: ‘We support patient choice but we believe that this proposed abolition is ill conceived, difficult to implement, and unlikely to yield real benefit for patients.

‘We hope the untoward consequences are fully understood to the public, politicians and the media before any decision is made.'

And Derbyshire LMC is submitting a motion urging the Government not to raise patient expectations to unrealistic levels on access.

The deadline for submitting motions closed on April 12, with the BMA now tasked with collating them in preparation for the annual LMC conference on June 10-11.

Dr Rob Barnett said there was widespread concerned about consequences of the policy