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Burnham offers increased choice over GPs

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 September 2009

Health secretary Andy Burnham says government plans to remove GP practice boundaries will allow patients to register with a doctor in a more convenient place within a year.

Andy Burnham (picture: Reuters)

He announced plans to remove GP practice boundaries within the next 12 months so commuters could choose a practice close to their office and mothers could visit a doctor close to their childrens' schools.

The British Medical Association has said the change of policy would be costly and complicated but they would be willing to discuss the proposal.

Mr Burnham also said the next phase of NHS reform will also focus on providing a good "patient experience".

Hospitals where doctors and nurses display a pleasant bedside manner and where wards are clean and attractive will be paid "significantly more" money.

He said: "In this day and age I can see no reason why patients should not be able to choose the GP practice they want.

"Many of us lead hectic lives and health services should be there to make things easier.

"A busy mum needs flexibility - she may want to register at a practice near her children's school.

"Equally, a commuter may want to register near to work.

"I want them to be able to do this while ensuring that access to home visits won't be affected, wherever someone ends up registering."

Mr Burnham will say a focus on "people-centred care", including the way people are spoken to by NHS staff, and whether they are treated with compassion and respect, is essential for the service to become "great".

The NHS will no longer get paid for poor treatment, he will say. But hospitals which achieve higher rates of "patient satisfaction" will be paid "significantly more".

"In the last decade, the NHS has gone from poor to good," he will say.

"In the next, I want to help it go from good to great. That will mean a relentless focus on quality and people-centred care.

"I also want to use financial incentives to change the way care is provided - for example, it can often be cost effective and better quality to provide dialysis or chemotherapy in people's homes."

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