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“Choice remains a dirty word in Scotland’s NHS”

“Choice remains a dirty word in Scotland’s NHS”

System of access to GP services is outdated – essay set for publication in new year

Tom Harris, the former Labour Minister who served under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has called for the Labour party to take a fresh approach to healthcare reform, and has highlighted the lack of choice in public access to GP services, in an essay set for publication in the new year.

In his chapter for Reforming Scotland, a forthcoming publication from the independent think-tank Reform Scotland, of which he has become an Advisory Board member, Tom Harris writes:

“How can it be, in the early part of the 21st century, that choice remains a dirty word in Scotland’s NHS?”

Mr Harris argues that the current system of enforced catchment areas for access to GP services is outdated and urgently needs reform. His article continues:

“As new technology continues to transform almost every public service, the very idea that it should be up to NHS bureaucrats, rather than citizens themselves, to decide who should provide their treatment, starts to look as outdated as the closed shop.

“Why shouldn’t anyone who is able to travel that extra mile (literally) sign up at a practice that is not quite as local another practice with which that citizen is dissatisfied? If the preferred surgery’s patient list is full, they can always refuse the application on those grounds. If it’s not full, what difference does it make to treat someone from outside the local area?”

Mr Harris’ article is being released as part of a collection of essays by a range of authors, and follows Reform Scotland’s campaigning on modernising primary care services through its “Patients First: Improving Access to GP Practices” report. The full essay can be accessed here.

Geoff Mawdsley, Reform Scotland’s Director, said:

“Reforming Scotland will contain chapters written by people of all political backgrounds and none, which will examine the reform agenda and how it could be applied in different areas of public policy. We are excited about Tom’s contribution in which he adds weight to our previous calls for more choice in access to GP services.”