75% of GPs want limit on private care

More than two thirds of GPs back amendments to the Health Bill proposed by the Liberal Democrats and Labour, a GP poll has revealed.

Dr McCarron-Nash: doctors should continue to lobby Tory MPs to achieve amendments to the Bill (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr McCarron-Nash: doctors should continue to lobby Tory MPs to achieve amendments to the Bill (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

The poll of 303 GPs revealed widespread discontent over the Bill and confirmed support from GPs for the decisions made at the BMA's special representative meeting (SRM) on 15 March.

It found that 38 per cent of GPs are considering retiring early to avoid the impending NHS reforms.

But in a sign that the push for amendments to the Health Bill is gathering momentum, GPs backed a series of changes to the Bill supported by Liberal Democrats at the party's spring conference last month.

Click here for the full coverage of the BMA meeting

They also backed a Labour call for parts of the Bill that set out plans for 'any willing provider' to run NHS services to be dropped, and likewise on the plans to give regulator Monitor powers to enforce competition in the NHS.

Keeping public control
A total of 75 per cent of GPs support the Liberal Democrats' call for commissioning 'to remain a public function' to ensure it is not subcontracted to the private sector.

The party also called for private providers only to be allowed to bid for NHS services when there is no risk of 'cherry picking'.

A total of 74 per cent of GPs backed this. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is reported to be discussing amendments with health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Nearly two-thirds of GPs approve of Labour's efforts to remove all of section three of the Health Bill, which refers to any willing providers.

GP's poll echoes the mood of the BMA SRM, with opinion on the Health Bill split only on whether to oppose it 'in its entirety'. Just a quarter of GPs disagree with the SRM's call for the Bill to be withdrawn.

One respondent, a GP in Newcastle, said he planned to retire early but would 'fight tooth and nail to stop Lansley destroying the NHS first'.

A total of 54 per cent of respondents to the GP poll said they had no confidence in the health secretary, a motion rejected by the SRM. But only 37 per cent said the BMA should call for his resignation.

One GP partner in Surrey said it would be a 'pointless gesture that would antagonise the government'.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said the NHS reforms were 'obviously concerning' for the profession.

'Many of us have been through so many changes, so many reorganisations; we feel that these reforms, when the NHS is performing well, are foolhardy,' she said.

'There are other concerns about our pensions, and that GPs will be made scapegoats and have to make really tough decisions.'

She welcomed the news that Mr Clegg 'was getting involved' but said GPs should continue to lobby MPs to achieve amendments.

Editor's blog: Enthusiastic GPs are the Health Bill's biggest asset

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