Poll finds 12% of GPs think Health Act will improve patient care

A poll has revealed that only 12% of GPs think the Health Act will lead to patients seeing a 'noticeable' improvement.

The BBC’s survey conducted by ComRes polled 814 GPs between 21 and 30 March, revealing 83% thought the Act would increase rationing. 

This latest poll shows GP support for the reforms decreasing, after one in September revealed that 23% thought the Act would lead to improved patient care.

In the latest poll 87% said the Act would lead to private companies having a bigger role, with a further 49% claiming the NHS would not be able to meet the 18-week target. Just 22% thought the target would be able to be met once the Act was implemented.

GPC deputy chairman Richard Vautrey said: ‘The survey is not surprising as it fits with what GPs are telling us directly. They are concerned that the government went ahead with the Health Act without really being prepared to listen and change in response to what the majority of GPs were telling them. They now fear that cuts will have to be made to patient services, waiting times will get longer and care could become more fragmented with the involvement of more private companies. They will though continue to do all they can for their patients, but don't believe the Health Act has made this easier.’

In the case of A&Es, 42% of GPs thought the Act would lead to the closure of emergency units or the downgrading of hospitals in the next five years.

Although 12% of those polled though that GP-led commissioning would improve care, 55% said they disagreed and 33% said they did not know whether or not it would.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said: 'It is not the role of GPs to ration care. We may need to prioritise care but GPs base this first and foremost on patient need and we must continue to do so. Rationing should be far removed from the consulting room. It is ultimately for politicians to determine the overall NHS budget, and to take decisions about service closures.'

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘The Health and Social Care Act will hand power to GPs, put patients at the heart of the NHS, and reduce needless bureaucracy.

‘Of course, every important reform to the NHS, under whatever government, has had its critics from within the system. But putting GPs in leadership positions in the NHS will mean they can improve services for their entire local population. Patients want doctors to make decisions about their care, not managers, and that is what our reforms will deliver.

‘The independent NHS Future Forum found broad support for the principles of our plans. And we have seen GPs themselves, as well as across the service, outline support for shifting power to the front line.

‘We know the NHS can be more efficient - it has already made £7bn in efficiency savings since April 2010 whilst improving performance - there are record low infection rates, mixed sex wards down by over 90% and the number of people waiting over a year for treatment has been reduced by over half.’

Marina Soteriou

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