Pick a GP where you like: Families can register near work, school or where the surgery hours suit them

  • Reforms to surgeries proposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
  • Traditional catchment areas to be abandoned under new scheme
  • Practices will be categorised to help patients decide which to use
  • Surgeries to have Ofsted-style ratings and national inspector appointed

Change: Under Jeremy Hunt's reforms, patients will be able to register at any doctor's surgery they like, allowing people to sign up with a GP near work or their children's school

Patients will be able to register at any doctor’s surgery they like from next October.   

Traditional catchment areas will be abandoned, allowing people to sign up with a GP near work or their children’s school.

Patients will also have the option of switching to popular surgeries, which will have Ofsted-style ratings under Jeremy Hunt’s reforms. The Health Secretary has appointed a national inspector to put GP practices into four quality categories, helping patients decide which to use.

‘GPs will have the freedom to take on more patients,’ Mr Hunt told the Mail last night. ‘You will be able to find the most convenient GP practice for you. Whether this is near to your work, your university, your school. This will help to reduce long-term pressures on our A&E services, give real choice to hard-working people, and drive up GPs’ standards.’

By allowing patients to register anywhere, it is expected that highly-rated GP practices and those which offer longer opening hours will thrive.

Families who move house will be able to stay with their trusted doctor rather than re-register at their new address. 

Doctors will still be paid for the number of patients they have, so a surgery which is in demand will get more funding to cope with the greater workload.

Patients who join a practice a long distance away will not be eligible for home visits, but the local GP commissioning groups, and NHS England which oversees them, will work on a system over the next year to ensure these patients can have visits if they become too ill to attend a surgery.

Mr Hunt announced in yesterday’s Mail that he had torn up the controversial GP contract, signed under Labour, which had ‘broken the link’ between GPs and patients.

From April, Britain’s four million over-75s will have a personal doctor to oversee their care and telephone consultations day and night. This reform is also expected to ease the pressure on casualty units. Mr Hunt said the botched GP contract had led to nine out of ten surgeries closing in the evening and at weekends.

Richard Vautrey, a family doctor in Leeds and deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said catchment areas would continue, except for ‘a different type of patient who can register in any practice anywhere’.

Success: By allowing patients to register anywhere, it is expected that highly-rated GP practices and those which offer longer opening hours will thrive

He added: ‘It would benefit those who are regularly away from home so they would not need to take time off work for appointments. But it is fraught with problems which will need to be worked out over the next year. People being able to join a GP practice anywhere could have unintended consequences.’ 

Under a separate deal, also aimed at improving transparency and choice, doctors’ pay will be published to help patients evaluate whether they are getting value for money. Doctors will no longer have automatic pay rises for long service but will be paid for the number of patients they have. The £450million handed out in seniority pay and inducements for hitting tick-box targets, which doctors say waste their time, will instead be given to GPs to invest in patient care and prevent unnecessary admissions to A&E.

Only their income from the taxpayer will be published, not that for private work.

Jamie Reed, a Labour health spokesman, said: ‘People should be able to join a convenient surgery, but the important part is whether they can get an appointment. Under this Government, it’s getting harder to see your family doctor.’

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