The Department of Health (DH) is expanding patient choice of GP practices in two ways. One is the Patient Choice Scheme pilot and the other is the introduction of outer practice boundaries. Both will allow patients to have a greater choice of GP practices available to them, and are explained in the section below.
The Patient Choice Scheme
This scheme is being piloted in three areas in England. The three pilot areas were selected due to the high numbers of commuters travelling into the areas each day.
- Central London and Westminster CCG (clinical commissioning group) and Tower Hamlets CCG
- Nottingham City CCG
- Manchester and Salford CCG
GP practices in these areas are able to join the scheme on a voluntary basis. If you are regularly coming into these areas, and you live outside the catchment area of one of the participating practices then you will be able to:
- Join a participating practice as an out-of-area registered patient. This will allow you to access all the services provided by the practice. However, any service that would require the GP to leave the practice area such as home visits or hospital after care won’t be possible.
- Seek treatment at a participating practice as an out-of-area unregistered patient (day patient). At the same time you will remain registered with your current practice. Details of any treatment provided will be passed back to your regular practice.
You can find out if GP practices are participating in the Patient Choice Scheme from the NHS website, including the full name and address of the practice. Then, look up the GP practice profile on this site for additional information such as opening times or specialist services.
Note: this pilot scheme is subject to a full independent evaluation, which will determine whether this is rolled out further in the future.
Outer practice boundaries
All GP practices should agree an outer practice boundary area with their CCG, by July 1 2012. This will be an outer practice boundary area where existing patients who have moved into it can continue to be registered with their old practice, as long as it agrees that this is clinically appropriate.
Also, the process around practices closing their lists when they cannot take on more patients has been simplified. This will help people by making it clearer whether a practice list is open or closed to new registrations.
The patient choice scheme and the outer boundary arrangements have been implemented through legislation which came into effect on April 30 2012, and supporting this are guidance documents, all of which can be accessed on the Department of Health’s website.