Exclusive - GPs desert Labour in droves

GP poll shows political shift as falling profits force practices to cut staff.

GPs are so unhappy with Labour's record on health that half plan to vote Conservative at the next general election, a GP survey has found.

The poll of nearly 1,400 GPs found that 54 per cent rate the government's record on the NHS as 'poor' or 'very poor'.

Survey results

Support for Labour among GPs now stands at just 15 per cent. Yet the comments of many respondents suggest that the figures reflect a protest vote, rather than any swell of support for the Conservatives.

'It's too early to decide (who to vote for),' wrote one Northampton GP, who voted Labour in 1997. 'But one thing's for sure - it won't be Labour.'

Paradoxically, 63 per cent of GPs said primary care had improved in the last decade. Reasons included the quality framework, waiting times, and more preventive medicine.

But many said that these improvements were under threat from policies such as polyclinics and private provision, which had destabilised traditional general practice.

Another reason for the dissatisfaction appears to be the fall in profits reported by more than three-quarters of practices.

Deputy GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said this was having 'a negative effect on services practices can offer'.

But he added that low morale was largely 'a reflection of the fact GPs feel bruised and battered by the last three years' as successes like the quality framework have been 'undermined for political reasons'.

Respondents called for less political interference in the NHS, and an end to the purchaser/provider split. Many urged the government to treat doctors with greater respect.

One GP in Yorkshire demanded 'an apology for the appalling way it has treated us and generally deceived the public'.

The survey found support for Conservative policies on health running at 43 per cent, compared with only 20 per cent for Labour. But many admitted they were unsure what Conservative policies were.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw told GP: 'It would seem that half the GPs who responded have short memories. In 1997 Labour inherited an NHS on its knees. This government has invested historic sums in health.'

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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