Traditional GPs denied diagnostic cash

Investment in diagnostic facilities 'should not be limited to Darzi centres'.

Andy Burnham: empowerment
Andy Burnham: empowerment

A 'massive' expansion in primary care diagnostic facilities could be limited to GP-led health centres and new APMS clinics, the health secretary has signalled.

At a King's Fund event last week, Mr Burnham repeated Labour's pledge that patients with suspected cancer will get test results within a week.

'This will be delivered by a major expansion of diagnostics and testing capability in primary care ... which is only possible because Labour has created an entirely new infrastructure at local level; with 256 purpose-built health centres across the country,' he said.

'Years ago in my constituency of Leigh, it would not have been possible for this to happen, with GPs practising out of terraced houses.'

GPs working alongside diagnostic tools will be 'empowered' and illnesses detected earlier, said Mr Burnham.

RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field said Labour must commit to providing 'specialist knowledge' to operate the diagnostic equipment.

Afterwards GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed improved access to diagnostics for GPs, but said there was 'ample scope' for investment in more traditional general practices.

'There is no reason to restrict this expansion in diagnostics to GP-led health centres. The DoH is fixated with investing in its preferred GP premises model.

'If these services are part of a marketisation approach, it is possible you may have anyone providing them. You could have high-street diagnostics, with no quality assurance.'

The pledge to give patients cancer tests within a week was 'simplistic', said Dr Nagpaul.

'The government should stop setting targets before it has developed the service,' he said.

Conference chairman and King's Fund chief executive Chris Ham said some critics thought Labour was 'going for the fear of cancer vote' and sidelining other illnesses.

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