ACM, Dutch GP association, and patient federation to tackle barriers to switching GPs
Patients looking for new general practitioners are often wrongfully refused. This is revealed by reports received by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and by a survey among GPs. The Dutch National Association of General Practitioners (LHV) and the Dutch Patient Federation (Patiëntenfederatie Nederland), together with ACM, are going to draw more attention to the rules regarding switching GPs.
Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘Patients have to be completely free in their choice of GPs. Agreements among GPs that hinder switching are illegal. I am glad to see that everyone involved subscribes to that principle, and that, together, we will be drawing more attention to the rules.’
Patients are free to choose their own GPs
Patients have to be able to choose their own GPs. Previously, LHV and the Dutch Patient Federation published the information booklet ‘Changing your GP’ (in Dutch: ‘Wisselen van huisarts’) about this subject. In this booklet, it is explained that GPs are only able to refuse patients in a limited number of situations. For example, if the practice is full or if the travel distance between patient and GP is too great. The Dutch Competition Act prohibits GPs from sharing patients or catchment areas, or from making arrangements about not taking over each other’s patients. Yet, ACM regularly gets reports from patients who have been wrongly refused by a GP. If it gets easier for patients to switch, GPs will be stimulated to tailor their services to patients’ needs.
GPs support the right to choose one’s own GP
ACM wished to gain more insight into the backgrounds of these reports. That is why ACM conducted a survey among GPs, asking them how they deal with patients that want to switch doctors. The survey revealed that one in five GPs wrongfully refuses patients every now and then (in contravention of either their own rules or of competition rules). GPs that are not well aware of the rules are more likely to refuse patients. Also, some of the GPs do not consider it appropriate to take on patients from another GP in the vicinity. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of GPs (94%) thinks it is important that patients are able to choose their own GPs.
Increasing the knowledge about switching rules
A lack of knowledge seems to be one of the reasons as to why patients are wrongfully refused. That is why LHV and the Dutch Patient Federation, together with ACM, are going to improve the educational efforts aimed at GPs and patients. For example, a new booklet ‘Changing your GP’ will be published, in which attention will also be given to competition rules. Also, the competition rules will be discussed in various continuing-education courses for GPs. In addition to that, ACM will answer questions about switching doctors on its website.