Ministers have dismissed a petition against polyclinics signed by over a million patients as the result of a 'misleading and mendacious' campaign.
Health minister Ben Bradshaw said he was not surprised the petition had received so many signatures. 'If I were to run a campaign making false claims that something terrible was about to happen, a lot of people would sign my petition too.'
There was 'widespread anecdotal evidence' of practices making inaccurate statements about government plans, designed to pressure patients into signing, he added.
But GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said it 'insulted the intelligence of patients' to suggest they couldn't decide for themselves. 'It's the exact opposite of what we've been trying to do, which is to explain to them what the government was up to,' he said.
Dr Buckman demanded to know which parts of the petition Mr Bradshaw believed to be misleading. 'We can stand by every single statement in it. If I were to fabricate it, the press and public would have us for breakfast.
'This is too big a number to dismiss in that way,' he added.
More than 1.2 million people signed the BMA's petition, which calls on the government to invest in general practice and stop the roll-out of private provision.
Speaking before delivering the petition to Downing Street, Dr Buckman said he hoped it would persuade ministers to 'halt development of polyclinics and GP-led healthcare centres and discuss with us the positioning of new services'.
But he added that he was not optimistic. 'The evidence suggests the government finds it hard to listen to doctors, patients and voters.'