GPs reject call for 'private, alternative model' of general practice

LMCs have rejected a call for the GPC to develop a 'private, alternative model' of general practice to support GPs who feel they can no longer operate in the NHS.

The controversial motion - which prompted a rare intervention from the RCGP ahead of the England LMCs conference - drew by far the longest line of speakers any debate had attracted so far.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard warned earlier this week that despite 'immense' pressure on general practice, 'to consider privatisation of general practice in any shape or form is not the answer'.

Bedfordshire LMC's Dr Christiane Harris, proposing the motion, stressed however that its intention was not to trigger mass resignations from the NHS.

She warned that pressure had grown to a level where some GPs simply felt they could not continue in the NHS, and warned that developing a private alternative was the only way they could be retained in general practice. Dr Harris also called for the right for practices to offer healthcare services not available on the NHS privately to patients on their practice lists.

Read more: full conference coverage

A string of speakers against the motion warned that promoting a private alternative to NHS general practice risked creating a two-tier health service.

Tower Hamlets LMC chair Dr Jackie Applebee said: 'Please don’t vote for this, conference. We recognise the pressure on general practice, but the solution is not to abandon the NHS – not to collude with government to deliver their dream of a private NHS.'

She said that pressing ahead with a mass closure of patient lists following a BMA ballot in favour of the move this summer would have 'far more impact'.

'How could you look your patients in the eye next week if you vote for this? Passing this motion would be a betrayal of the principles of the NHS as a free-at-the-point-of-need public service.

'Now is not the time to throw in the towel - now is the time to stand up and prevent them from destroying our precious NHS.'

Health inequalities

Dr Annie Farrell added: 'Sending the message that GPs would be willing to increase health inequalities in this country is not helpful. What may be an option for GPs in Hampshire is not an option for patients in Liverpool. Jeremy Hunt would be laughing all the way to the bank. Please don’t give him that satisfaction.'

Despite a clear vote against the motion, the debate won significant support among doctors' leaders.

Hampshire GP Dr Alex Freeman hit out at critics of the motion. 'Where in this does it say anything other than making a request to GPC to explore how GPs can do something different? It has that dirty old 'p' word in it. If it’s private it must be bad. In your accounts, have you got a line in there that says private fees? I am in an area where we have closed lists, in a relatively leafy area where a practice has handed back its contract. If you don’t support this you are saying you don’t give a damn about our colleagues. Colleagues are being bankrupted by this government. You can be pro-NHS and support your colleagues.'

GPC executive team member Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said that the GPC opposed charges to patients for NHS care, but pointed out that the BMA already had a private practice committee to support people 'considering this kind of move'. But he warned that 'given the passion of the debate and potential for misunderstanding or media misrepresentation' the GPs should not back the motion.

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