Patients First: Improving access to GP practices03.09.2012

Reform Scotland’s latest report, ‘Patients First: Improving access to GP practices’  examines the practical arrangements regarding how patients access their GPs, the “gate-keepers” to our health service, and whether we can’t improve arrangements to encourage a provision of service more suited to patients’

Reform Scotland’s latest report, ‘Patients First: Improving access to GP practices’  examines the practical arrangements regarding how patients access their GPs, the “gate-keepers” to our health service, and whether we can’t improve arrangements to encourage a provision of service more suited to patients’ needs.

Using research Reform Scotland carried out on GP practices in urban and rural settings in Scotland, the report illustrates that the way GP practices operate can vary considerably from whether they operate open surgeries to extended hours, have the ability to process repeat prescriptions online to whether they even have a website.

Diversity is a good thing, and something which Reform Scotland would like to see more of within publicly-run services.   However, unless there is genuine choice for the public between GP practices, a postcode lottery is created, as our research demonstrates has occurred in Scotland.

This is why Reform Scotland believes that giving individuals greater choice over their GP practice would mean that people were able to easily walk away from GP practices they felt did not provide services that suited them.  To achieve this goal the report recommends:
• Enlarging GP practice catchment areas
• Allowing new practices to open up
• Ending the ban on commercial companies running GP practice.

We don’t envisage that such a policy would lead to a mass exodus of patients from GP practices, but the potential that they could, would help drive up standards.

The report also contains other recommendations aimed at improving the amount of information available to the public and establishing a separate General Medical Services (GMS) contract for Scotland.

It is very telling that the top five negatively rated issues in the Scottish government’s GP survey were all to do with how patients accessed services.  Reform Scotland believes the recommendations we have set out in this report are a step in the right direction to helping improve that experience for patients.