A Conservative government would give GPs full control over patient budgets, David Cameron has said.
The party leader told an audience in West Yorkshire he would 'give GPs the responsibility to manage the entire relationship that a patient has with the NHS'.
GPs' role would be to help patients make choices about their care, he said. They would also be made responsible for commissioning out-of-hours services once again.
'With this power GPs will control the budgets for the care of each of their patients,' Mr Cameron said. 'Instead of far-off bureaucracies soaking up funding, local doctors will ensure money follows the patient and is spent on front-line care.'
It would also mean that, while patients see many doctors, 'there is always one person in charge that you know by name and trust completely', he said.
Dr David Jenner, GMS contract lead at the NHS Alliance, said offers of greater autonomy for GPs 'did not sound so attractive' when budgets are tight.
At present, tough decisions about expensive treatments are made by primary care organisations, he said. 'I am not sure how many GPs will be comfortable taking those decisions when they are that close to a patient.'
He also questioned who would be responsible when patients demanded judicial review of their treatment. 'Potentially the buck will stop with GPs.'
Dr Vicky Weeks, chairman of the GPC sessional doctors subcommittee, said the plans 'sounded like fundholding'.
But giving GPs budgetary control could help ensure that there were adequate resources for primary care, she added.
Mr Cameron's speech reiterated Conservative plans to focus on 'outcomes rather than targets', to widen patient choice and open up the NHS to any willing provider. He also suggested the party would ring-fence the public health budget.
Tory plans for the NHS have come under scrutiny after MEP Daniel Hannan described it as a '60-year mistake'.
A survey by pollsters ComRes found only 62 per cent of Tory MPs backed the party's plans to keep raising NHS spending.
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