GPs in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and City have been advised not to take part in a practice boundary pilot, amid fears it will result in cuts to services for existing patients.
A letter, sent to all Hackney, Tower Hamlets and City practices, highlights “grave concerns” about the voluntary pilot scheme.
The chairs of four London Local Medical Committees, Dr Deborah Colvin (City and Hackney), Dr Shella Shanmugadasan (Tower Hamlets), Dr Kambiz Boomla (City and East London) and Dr Prakash Chandra (Newham), all signed the letter, urging GPs to boycott unless the government agrees to fully fund any additional costs incurred.
The boundary pilot, known as the ‘Patient Choice Scheme’, will allow commuters to use practices near their work in any of the boroughs that volunteered for the pilot, either as a registered or non-registered out-of-area patient. The Primary Care Trusts would be paid £12.93 per patient.
But Local Medical Committees say that PCTs taking part will incur additional costs from an influx of new patients, without receiving any additional funding from the Department of Health, resulting in cuts to existing patients’ services.
LMC chairs have encouraged practices to boycott the pilot, unless the government agrees to pay “all secondary care, community care and prescribing costs arising as a direct result of the pilot out of the sums available for the pilot.”
They add: “We believe it is unacceptable for patients in two of the most deprived PCTs in the country to have funding for their services cut in order to fund this pilot. We believe that protecting our services to our existing patients must be our greatest priority.”
There are also concerns about how different practices will share patient information and that the scheme could lead to misuse, with patients registering elsewhere in order to receive better services.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health has said:
“Analysis suggests that those people most likely to register as ‘out-of-area’ patients will be relatively young and in work (aged 18-35 without long term conditions). The average cost of hospital or other care for these patients is relatively low and therefore are not expected to be significant new costs during the pilot period.”
The scheme is due to begin on Monday 30th April.