Health

New GP registration system tested

Stethoscope
Image caption Ministers have wanted to alter registration rules for years

Some patients in England will be able to switch GPs so they can register close to work, under a new pilot agreed between doctors and the government.

Two or three major trials to test the system are expected to start in the next year.

The deal with the British Medical Association also means patients who move a short distance away will be able to stay with their existing practice.

Doctors have also agreed to a pay freeze for 2012-13.

That aspect of the deal applies to the whole of the UK, as does the introduction of new incentives into the performance-related pay part of the GP pay package to tackle the growing problem of unnecessary hospital admissions.

Reluctance

The agreement on registration comes after many years of talks between government and doctors.

Labour first floated the idea of relaxing the rules regarding registration when they were in office.

The proposals were then taken on by the coalition.

Doctors' leaders had initially been reluctant to agree to the suggestions, but have now agreed to pilot them.

Two models will be tested.

Under the first, patients will be allowed to stay with their practice near home while allowing them to visit another one close to their work.

The second one will involve patients giving up their registration with their home GP.

Dr Richard Vautrey, of the BMA, said: "Most GPs were against the complete abolition of practice boundaries because of the potential negative impact on continuity of care, so we're pleased that we have been able to agree this alternative which will help commuters as well as patients who move out of a practice's boundaries but want to stay registered."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley added: "This is a good deal for GPs, a good deal for patients and a good deal for the NHS."

The decision to allow patients to stay registered with their GP when they move home applies to the whole of England.

In many ways it formalises what already happens in practice in many cases - although it will still be up to the discretion of GPs.

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