Editorial - GPs have power to halt any NHS privatisation

Our website gponline.com reported last week that a group of more than 100 doctors had criticised the BMA's position on NHS reforms and urged it to oppose proposals more forcefully.

This week's GP includes an exclusive interview with GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman in which he explains his belief that GPs will face 'enormous pressure' to outsource 'some, or all, of their work' to the private sector.

We're expecting the exact wording of health secretary Andrew Lansley's Health Bill to be unveiled next week although its basis will be the DoH's response to the health White Paper consultation explained on page 12, with more detail online at gponline.com/whitepaper

As Dr Buckman points out, the opportunity to buy services from the private sector as commissioners will be enabled by the coalition government but the choice to do so, or not, will remain with GPs. And this is as it should be.

Mr Lansley used the phrase 'no decisions about me, without me' to sum up the thrust of his new NHS direction for patients but the same could equally be said to apply to GPs. At least initially.

Mr Lansley has chosen GPs to take the place of managers behind the wheel of the NHS and it will soon be your choice about whether you'd like to drive on - or employ a private firm to do so on your behalf.

Perhaps of more interest is Dr Buckman's description of commissioning as remaining 'a side function' for most of the profession.

It is very much at odds with the vision of the National Association of Primary Care, which believes it should become an integral part of a GP's job.

After all, if the NHS is to find £20 billion of savings and 'we're all in this together', as the Tories promised during last year's election campaign, it seems reasonable to expect that the coalition government will be looking to each practice to make a fair-shares contribution to those savings.

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