Current projects
General Practice Choice Pilot Evaluation
General Practice Choice Pilot Evaluation

Between April 2012 and March 2013, in four PCT areas in England – Westminster, Manchester, Salford and Nottingham – patients were able to access a GP practice away from the area in which they lived, either in place of, or in addition to, their ‘home’ practice. PIRU carried out an independent evaluation of the practice choice pilot, and examined the level of demand for GP choice, the experiences of care received by patients, and the impact on pilot practices and commissioners of GP services.

The evaluation of the GP Practice Choice pilot included:

  • Interviews with patients in the pilot
  • Interviews with practice staff and PCT staff involved in the pilot
  • A postal survey of all patients involved in the pilot (similar to the GP patient survey which is undertaken twice a year by NHS England)
  • A web survey of staff from all pilot practices
  • Analysis of administrative data
  • A discrete choice experiment to explore what attributes patients valued when choosing a GP practice.

There were 1108 out of area (OoA) registered patients and 250 day patients at the 43 volunteer practices that participated in the pilot.

There were four types of OoA registered patients:

1. Patients who had moved house, but did not want to change their practice (26%)
2. Patients who had chosen their practice for convenience (33%)
3. Patients who were new to the area and had registered with a pilot practice,
but lived outside the practice’s catchment area (24%)
4. Patients who were dissatisfied with their previous practice or chose their new practice
for specific services or to see a particular GP (14%).

Most OoA registered patients were positive about the scheme. Convenience and continuity of care after moving house appeared to be the main benefits perceived. The scheme also suited patients with long commutes.

There were three types of day patients:

1. Patients motivated by convenience related to their lifestyle or place of work (69%)
2. Patients who could have been registered as Temporary Residents (19%)
3. Patients who wanted to see a particular GP or obtain care that their registered practice
did not provide, or who were not satisfied with the quality of care at their registered
practice (8%).

Most day patients expressed positive views of the scheme for its convenience to their work or lifestyle and ease of making an appointment. The scheme suited patients wishing to remain registered with a practice near their homes.

PCT managers had some concerns related to the risk that, with out-of-area registration, practice populations could become more socio-economically segregated. Another concern for the future, if more patients found themselves living outside the area where their general practice was located, relates to making and managing referrals and their costs. Practice staff were broadly (though not uniformly) positive about extending the out of area registration aspect of the scheme.

The discrete choice experiment showed that a minority of the population would be willing to register with a practice outside their neighbourhood provided that there was such a practice available that was more convenient for them. However, there was considerable heterogeneity in preferences. Some sub-groups, either because they are less mobile (e.g. older people and those with caring responsibilities), or because they are satisfied with their local services, were far less interested in registering at a practice outside their neighbourhood. In choosing a practice, people feel most strongly about obtaining an appointment with a GP as quickly as possible. Most people did not regard weekend opening (Saturday and Sunday) as important in determining their choice of practice. Some people, in particular those who worked and older people, felt strongly about having responsive services that had extended opening hours, whether it meant that they had to register with a practice locally or not. These findings are consistent with the results from the surveys of patients using the pilot.

The final report of the evaluation was provided to the Department of Health and NHS England in March 2014. The report is in two volumes: 1) the main report and 2) appendices. A number of journal articles have been published.

To download a copy of the main report please click here >>

To download a copy of the appendices please click here >>

To download a copy of the accompanying press release please click here>>

Results from the evaluation were presented at a Public Policy Exchange conference in March 2014. To download a copy of the presentation please click here>>

The report “Choice of primary care provider: a review of experiences in three countries” is a review of initiatives to provide choice in primary care provider in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It was published in September 2013.

To download a copy of the report please click here >>

Several papers arising from this project have been published in academic journals.

A systematic review of initiatives to improve patient access to primary care was carried out and published in Health Policy. To see this review please click here>>

A paper looking at patient experience of the GP choice scheme was published in BMJ Open. To see this paper please click here>>

A paper describing the likely policy implications of removing general practice boundaries was published in Health Policy.To see this paper please click here>>

A discrete choice experiment looking at determinants of GP practice registration was published in Health Policy. To see this paper please click here>>