At a King’s Fund conference on integration in London on Tuesday, Professor Steve Field said the NHS must address the ‘unacceptable’ variation in primary care.
He said: ‘The issue is going to be encouraging our clinical leaders to understand that we can’t just carry on saying the NHS has to stay as it is.
‘We can’t accept the unacceptable variation in primary care that some of my colleagues stand up and say is tolerable and that it’s just about more GPs and more money. That’s complete nonsense.’
The comments appear to conflict with the view of RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada, who has frequently raised concerns about pressure on practices to address variation.
Professor Field said the NHS must look at new models of general practice, including federating practices to larger organisations.
He said: ‘What we have to do is change the system for health and social care in this country.
‘We need general practice and primary care to up its game.’
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon agreed that the focus must be on primary care but that money was needed to implement the changes.
He said: ‘We have been moving in the wrong direction for the past few years, along a secondary care focus rather than a primary care one.
‘We need to start putting money into primary care to restore the balance between primary and secondary care locally.’
Dr Rebecca Rosen, senior associate of the Nuffield Trust, added: ‘Financial constraints are going to get tighter. Our core vision should be improving care for patients. We are going to have to be flexible and innovative in the approach we take.’