75% of GPs condemn government as ‘poor’

Almost three quarters of UK GPs believe the government is doing a poor or very poor job, according to GP’s European Barometer.

Asked which political party they felt closest to, 44 per cent chose the Conservatives. Labour was ranked third (17 per cent) behind the Liberal Democrats (22 per cent).

More than one in five UK GPs thought the government was doing a very poor job (22 per cent), 51 per cent poor, 26 per cent good and only 1 per cent a very good job.

Only the German government was more unpopular, with 77 per cent of GPs there saying it was doing a poor or very poor job.

This compares with 64 per cent in Spain, 62 per cent in Italy and 47 per cent in France.

Patricia Hewitt is one of the least popular health secretaries in Europe. Two years ago, a third of UK GPs thought the health secretary John Reid was doing a good or very good job (GP, 21 January 2005).

However, only 13 per cent think Ms Hewitt is now doing a good or very good job with 87 per cent describing her performance as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

Ninety-four per cent of German GPs thought Ms Hewitt’s counterpart was performing poorly or very poorly.

The comparative figures were 58 per cent in Spain, 48 per cent in Italy and 47 per cent in France. Only 70 per cent of UK GPs said they knew the name of their health secretary, the lowest percentage in Europe.

Negative outlook

UK GPs were also the second least optimistic in Europe. Only 33 per cent were optimistic, second only to Germany (27 per cent). These results were similar to GP’s ‘Your Practice 2010’ survey which found that 44 per cent of UK GPs described themselves as pessimistic about the future (GP, 8 December 2006).

A total of 185 GPs from the UK took part, 199 from France, 174 from Germany, 185 from Italy and 181 from Spain. They were interviewed between 27 November and 4 December 2006.

Asked about the poor UK showing, a DoH spokesman said: ‘It is little coincidence that the peak in the health secretary’s popularity appears to follow shortly after April 2004’s generous new GP contract, which was backed by a guaranteed 36 per cent increase in resources.  ‘Today’s financial picture is very different, as the government is increasingly looking to tie GP income more closely to patient experiences through initiatives such as the recently launched GP patient survey, which offers GPs rewards for improving access.’

The spokesman added that ministers recognised the vital role of GPs and that their opinions were highly valued.

Popularity ratings

Meanwhile, GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said he was not a fan of popularity ratings for health secretaries.

‘How the NHS is run is not at the door of one person. Personalising it is not helpful,’ he said.

Asked what sort of job he felt the government was doing, Dr Meldrum added: ‘I’d rather deal with specific issues, but you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the recent problems with the NHS and see that the handling of that hasn’t been particularly good.’

Asked if he felt the party in power could change after the next election he said: ‘Anything’s possible. But you are probably better going to a commentator rather than the chairman of the GPC for that. I work with whatever government there is.’

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