Editorial: Future looks bright as coalition starts work

There is still much uncertainty about what will happen to general practice under the new coalition government but, so far, the early indications look positive for GPs.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has halted many of Labour's reforms that were unpopular with the profession and said nothing new will be introduced until it has the backing of local GPs and is supported by robust evidence.

This is a breath of fresh air for GPs who had become sick and tired of top-down directives that saw their workload significantly increase under Labour, a government that had become ever more unwilling to listen to their point of view.

As GP reveals this week, the new government has also signalled the possible end of overbearing PCT-run performance management frameworks.

Our investigation shows around 80 per cent of PCTs have implemented or plan to introduce frameworks that measure GP performance on areas outside the requirement of their contracts. Under the previous government there were suggestions that failure to meet standards set in these frameworks could lead to punitive action, possibly even the loss of a practice's contract.

The profession will, therefore, be relieved to hear that the new administration seems to be taking a more pragmatic approach. The focus on targets and box ticking could be coming to an end, giving GPs the freedom to get on with doing the job.

It is early days, and this honeymoon period may not last. The threat of public spending cuts still hangs over the NHS and pay rises without taking on more work or responsibility look unlikely. There are also big questions about what the coalition will introduce into contract negotiations next year and there is no clear indication that ministers will continue to support PMS. Meanwhile, the DoH is pushing forward with plans that could see community services merge with acute trusts, despite many GPs' objections.

It will clearly not all be plain sailing but, so far, many GPs will be thinking that things are starting to look quite a bit brighter.


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