Allowing people to choose their NHS GP by abolishing catchment areas presents many challenges, a patients’ group has said.
Royce Franklin, of the National Association for Patient Participation, said big questions remained on allowing greater choice for patients, although he welcomed the move.
The government has launched a 12-week consultation for health professionals and patients to suggest how a new system would work.
Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has said he wants to do away with the catchment areas and let people pick any practice, perhaps one closer to where they work.
But Mr Franklin said the future of services like home visits need to be protected, although Mr Burnham has promised to do this.
The patients’ group also raised questions about how community-based services would be coordinated after catchment areas disappeared, and how people could continue to receive specialist treatment.
Mr Burnham claimed five million appointment times would be threatened by Tory plans to give back to GPs the right to decide their own evening and weekend hours.
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“I agree that GP catchment areas should be abolished. It takes some time for a patient/family to get establish with a GP and for that GP to then become your family doctor. There are far to many things in life where you are treated like a cattle market and I do think that the sanctity of doctor/patient relationship should be treated with far more sensitivity. To be told you can not keep your family doctor because you want to move house, that is still relatively within a district say. Sefton in my case is unbelievable. I would understand if I where to move counties. Maybe an idea would be to stay within your county but not to be held to such a small catchment area. Surely we have the right to choose which GP we attend based on who we pay our council tax to at the very least?” – Karen Salmon, Borough of Sefton
“I am denied access to a decent GP because of where I live. Is this proposal still going to happen under the Tory/Lib coalition?” – Name and address withheld
“This raises more questions than it answers. What about the funding that practices receive based on areas of deprivation etc? What about the LES arrangements? How do you decide where money is best spent if you do not have the information about large numbers of patients from out of area? Why not sort out the answers to some of the questions before going for the pre-election gimmicks?” – Name and address withheld
“People at the ‘top’ are constantly coming up with great ideas that sound good superficially but are very disconnected to the day-to-day operational process. For example, pouring millions in to patient access that in some cases has made it worse for patients (can’t book an appointment in advance) which is taken out of context by the GP practice in order to meet the criteria set by DH. Money is wasted and there is no gain and some loss. People have to take more responsibility for their actions. Every practice in the country has DNAs that waste appointments that could be used by someone else. Sort out the DNAs and access will improve. GPs should charge just like dentists when a person makes an appointment and doesn’t attend or cancel then before they can make another appointment they pay £10. This one act alone would improve access and not cost millions. If catchment areas are abolished it will increase the DNAs as some people will be even further from their doctors. This is just one issue and coupled with the others mentioned like community services it seems that it would only add to the problems. Only when we can stop patients from abusing the NHS system and take personal responsibility when applicable will things start to improve” – Dean Thompson, London
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