Scrap GP Catchment Areas or introduce More Flexibility?

Nick Triggle, BBC News Health, reports (LINK INCLUDES VIDEO CONTENT) on Health Secretary Andy Burnham’s plans to scrap GP catchment areas within a year. With the promise “I want the best to be available to everyone, not according to where they live” he is about to open the flood gates for patient mobility with the desire that this will somehow “introduce more choice into the family doctor system” and “drive up standards”.

Whilst the “I want the best to be available to everyone, not according to where they live” and “people’s choice of a GP should be based on their own needs – not by lines on a map” statements may seem very noble the reality could be drops in standards and insufficient provisioning as many patients will be fine travelling for routine concerns but then will cause huge hand over headaches when they need home visits etc.

From looking at the details of what the Health Secretary is asking for it seems he really wants MORE FLEXIBILITY from practices and his search for this should not be used undermine the concept of a lifelong relationship with a registered family Doctor.

Take for example the statement “a busy mum needs flexibility – she may want to register at a practice near her children’s school, equally, a commuter may want to register near to work”. Yes, everyone can see that practices near a childs school might be convenient but don’t schools still work on catchment areas? There probably aren’t too many parents doing 50 mile round trips to ferry kids to school and the ones that are have probably organised a ride share scheme, making attending the remote practice doubly difficult.

As for the commuter, over 3 million people commute into the greater London Area everyday. Imagine the destabilising resource drain that this would have on suburban/rural GP practices if these younger healthier populations took with them their GP resources!

Roger Goss, of the campaign group Patient Concern, said: “The less successful surgeries will have to work harder to provide a quality service. It’s a good thing if the really incompetent surgery goes out of business.” Unfortunately, I my opinion I don’t think that this would be the desired outcome… whilst less successful surgeries will indeed fall by the wayside, on their downfall they will take with them the thousands of registered patients who haven’t migrated and remain because they aren’t regularly using the services, are already undergoing treatment, have mobility problems, need home visits etc etc. Scrapping GP catchment areas is NOT an effective way of introducing meritocracy to NHS primary care.

On a positive note this plan should be good for mHealth as GP practices will certainly be more interested in adding more convenient and mobile services for the younger/healthier patients they now face the prospect of losing.

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1 Response to Scrap GP Catchment Areas or introduce More Flexibility?

  1. Dr GP says:

    Read Dr Crippen writing in the Guardian about how this plan is one more step towards the 24/7 medical supermarket run by HCP’s

    “Say Goodbye to family doctors”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/sep/22/abolishing-practice-boundaries-medical-supermarkets

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