NHS Alliance urges GPs to embrace wider role

GPs warned against becoming complacent and encouraged to expand their role to cement their status.

GPs must not be 'complacent' about their status in the NHS and the pay they receive as the NHS funding crisis hits, NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon has warned.

He said that it would be dangerous for GPs to expect salary increases each year in the current climate, and the profession must expand its role to protect its future, warned Dr Dixon.

When asked if the GPC was underestimating the scale of the financial challenge the NHS faces, Dr Dixon said: 'There is a group of GPs slightly younger than me that has become complacent, has assumed that there will always be a job for them, and that there should always be an increase in their salary.'

GPs in the UK have relatively good job security and conditions compared to their colleagues in Europe, said Dr Dixon, but the DoH could take radical action if the profession continues to resist expanding its role.

'What GPs don't necessarily know is that there have been all sorts of ideas going around from on high.

'General practice could be turned into a very corporate service. GPs could have to bid for their own patients every few years under short-term contracts, for example.'

Dr Dixon's comments follow an NHS Confederation report urging PCTs to review GP contracts to prepare for a £15 billion funding shortage by 2016.

NHS managers discussed radical plans to save money in primary care at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Liverpool this month.

Ideas such as charging patients to visit their GP and scrapping independent contractor status must be considered, they said (GP, 19 June).

GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey refused to accept that the profession had become complacent, and said there was no excuse for pay cuts.

'The NHS throughout its 60 years has always faced financial difficulties but it is not an excuse to cut GP pay,' he said. 'GPs have seen a drop in resources for three or four years - there's no excuse to take away more.'

But Dr Dixon insisted 'the days of increased payment for work are gone', and urged GPs to get involved in commissioning if they want more resources available to them.

'If we expand our role we're untouchable,' he said.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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