Editorial: Any new government must work with GPs

This year will see the most interesting general election for years. Some pollsters believe it could go either way, while many political columnists are pondering our fate in the wake of a hung parliament.

As our poll today shows, most GPs are backing the Conservatives, who were first out of the campaigning blocks last week with the launch of their health manifesto.

In the event it turned out to be a mere five pages, much of which we had heard before, and with little detail on how it would be achieved. However, the NHS is clearly a Tory priority, and with health secretary Andy Burnham claiming the NHS is Labour's 'trump card', it seems health will be a key battleground in the coming months.

There will be change afoot for GPs, whoever triumphs on polling day - and any incoming government already looks to be on a collision course with the GPC.

The Tories' big idea to devolve real commissioning budgets to all practices requires a new contract, but the GPC has already said it would oppose any steps that compelled GPs to hold budgets. If the Conservatives win we can expect difficult and protracted contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, the DoH document From Good to Great sets out plans for the NHS from 2010-2015, should Labour remain in charge. Its suggestion that more acute trusts should run GP services received short shrift from GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman, who said it signalled the DoH's desire to 'get rid of general practice completely'.

In addition, pay restraint and efficiency requirements for GPs will surely feature in both Labour and Tory policies.

With the country's finances in dire straits, there is no doubt that difficult decisions lie ahead. But GPs are tired of being forced into undertaking new tasks or roles without discussion and seeing the values of traditional general practice undermined.

It is imperative that the incoming government works collaboratively with GPs to ensure its decisions do not adversely affect patient care and that UK general practice remains the envy of the world.

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