Falling GP morale puts reforms at risk

The government's NHS reforms are at risk of collapse because the morale of GPs leading commissioning has been severely undermined by doubts over the future of the Health Bill.

Dr Lothian: uncertainty in government has damaged GP morale
Dr Lothian: uncertainty in government has damaged GP morale

The reforms were plunged into doubt after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he would block the Health Bill unless changes were made.

He said no Health Bill at all was preferable to a bad one, and suggested plans to force GPs into consortia could be dropped. His remarks came after Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, speaking after heavy losses in local elections last week, said the party would now only support policies outlined in the coalition agreement.

The agreement backed GP commissioning, but did not allow for the scrapping of PCTs and SHAs.

GP organisations continue to press ministers to amend the reforms. As GP went to press, the BMA sent a briefing paper to MPs demanding limits on competition. The paper backs similar demands made by the RCGP.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said Mr Clegg's comments were welcome, but demanded evidence of amendments being tabled in the House of Commons.

But Dr James Kingsland, DoH national clinical commissioning network lead for England, warned that wrangling within government could undermine the enthusiasm of GP consortia. 'If we lose the momentum we have to date then we have lost our chance of rejuvenating the NHS. If we lose that, then that is indefensible.'

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon urged the government not to 'dumb down'

GP commissioning. 'This is the last chance. I shan't be going out to battle again, and neither will a lot of GPs. General practice could go back into the shadows.'

Dr Jane Lothian, secretary of Northumberland LMC said uncertainty in government had hit GP morale 'tremendously'.

'GPs have in good faith gone ahead with big changes and made big personal commitments. A lot of the previous organisations have been dismantled and there is nothing to fall back on.'

Dr Stephen Townsend, a member of Southampton City GP commissioning consortium, said he was 'hacked off' with politicians. 'We have lost our sense of urgency because of a punch-up between two parties.'

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