GP catchment areas to end17th September 2009
GP catchment areas in England looks set to be scrapped within a year.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced plans in a speech in London as ministers seek to introduce more choice into the family doctor system.
The idea has been talked about for some time and was raised again in Lord Darzi’s review of the health service last summer.
Mr Burnham said he saw the ending of the GP boundary system as helping to drive up standards and bring family doctors into line with patient choice, where it is already a well established right in hospital care for people entitled to choose from any hospital in the country for treatment.
Mr Burnham said: "I want the best to be available to everyone, not according to where they live.
"Too often people's choice of GP practice is unnecessarily limited by practice boundaries, so, with the profession, I want to open up real choice in primary care."
He said with people leading busy lives, there needed to be flexibility in their choice of GP practice, though he stressed measures would be put in place to ensure vital services such as home visits would be protected.
At present, GPs agree catchment areas with local health managers and vary in size according to rural and urban areas and population.
The BMA has said it is willing to work with the government on how the idea is implemented but said the change could be complicated.
Roger Goss from Patient Concern said introducing competition might help to improve the overall quality of primary services.
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Title: GP catchment areas to end
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 12677
Date Added: 17th Sep 2009