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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 02:54 GMT
Patients 'to get two-GP option'
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter

Image of a GP
Plans for GPs will form part of a forthcoming white paper
Patients will be allowed to register with two GPs under plans being discussed by ministers.

The option of registering with a family doctor close to home and near work is likely to be one of the key reforms in a white paper at the turn of the year.

The move is being cautiously welcomed by GPs, who have previously been wary of allowing such double registrations.

The idea emerged from recent consultation meetings attended by hundreds of people around the country.

The proposal being discussed by the government involves having a principal practice which would have responsibility for complex care, home visits and hospital referrals, but allowing patients to register with another surgery for basic care.

Some patients value the continuity of care they get with one GP, so we need to design a system which does not lose that
Patients Association spokeswoman

The model retains the continuity of care which GPs say is the bedrock of the NHS system but also factors in flexibility to reflect 21st century life.

Both the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs have said they are not opposed outright to the plan, although they have ruled out people registering with more than two doctors.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said: "We are open to anything which makes the NHS more useable for patients, but we would not want to see any fragmentation of services.


"There are issues with how GPs would be paid and communication between surgeries, but these are not insurmountable."

NHS managers are also behind a relaxation in registration rules.

A survey by the NHS Confederation, which formed part of its submission to the white paper, found that 78% of NHS trust chief executive thought patients should no longer be restricted to just one GP.

NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan said they still wanted to see a form of registration, but the system needed to become "more flexible to reflect patients' needs in the modern world".

The Patients Association also said it was in favour of allowing people to use other doctors.

But a spokeswoman added: "Some patients value the continuity of care they get with one GP, so we need to design a system which does not lose that."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "We need to respond to patients' expectations for more choice."

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