When the health service moves into the post COVID-19 phase of response planning, there will be a need to accurately plan acute, community and GP services. Planning will need to take into account the possibility that increased numbers of people will begin to travel from their home areas to go on holiday in the UK.
Some popular tourist areas are concerned about the effects this population increase might have on their service planning. They will potentially have to manage increased numbers seeking care as a temporary resident.
This guidance considers the current position regarding the treatment of patients from outside the practice area and the relevant contractual obligations, as well as how practices might adapt to increased demand in the future.
The GMS regulations set out that the length of time that a patient is intending to reside in an area dictates whether they are registered as a temporary or permanent patient.
Patients should be offered the option of registering as a temporary resident if they are resident in the practice area for more than 24 hours but less than three months.
Having obtained registration, temporary residents must be provided with essential services in the same way as any other patient.
However, given the rapid increase in the use by practices of remote consultations, registering as a temporary resident might no longer be necessary.
All patients, even if not on the practice list and not a temporary resident, must still be provided with primary medical services in core hours for any immediately necessary treatment (such as being provided medications).
Many GP practices are using digital tools to increase flexibility in how staff work and care for patients.
From April 2021, every PCN (primary care network) and practice will be offering a core digital service offer to all its patients:
- delivered through a new national supplier framework and other support activity.
- improvements to IT infrastructure
- more online services for patients
- digital tools to increase flexibility in how staff work and care for patients.
This type of working could allow patients travelling outside of their practice area to continue to remotely access their own GP, rather than risk over burdening local services.
The increased use of EPS (electronic prescription system) should allow for a patient’s regular practice to order a prescription electronically. A patient can then collect from any pharmacy, even if in a different location to their practice.
Should a patient need a physical examination or procedure they would then need to register as a temporary resident or seek immediately necessary treatment from a practice or health facility in the local area.
The functionality of various systems available to GP practices varies. For the latest information, practices and PCNs should contact their CCGs, who in turn should ensure that whatever is procured is suitable for online consultations.
For more advice and information, read our guidance on video consultations and homeworking.