Letters, calls and emails: Media attacks on GPs will undermine health service

Dear Editor,

We are increasingly concerned and disheartened at the adverse publicity that general practice is enduring.

The allegation is that we are work shy and have abandoned our commitment to working at weekends and night, a responsibility we had fulfilled since the inception of the NHS.

It was agreed with the government that we surrender this commitment and, as part of that arrangement, it retrieved from each GP a sum of money.

Despite warnings, the government misunderstood how cheaply it was receiving the service. Virtually overnight, out-of-hours costs doubled or trebled when local PCTs inherited the responsibility. The DoH thought they could deliver the service more cheaply, but it had made a huge miscalculation. Of course, out-of-hours is still delivered by GPs in the main, because we have only opted out of the responsibility of providing the service.

The second allegation is that GPs are profiteering from the NHS. Incorrect again. The profession had fallen behind comparable professions over the years, and the government fully appreciated this.

However, rather than give us a percentage uplift, it agreed a scheme of targets, the quality framework. This was our increase in salary, although GPs have used the money to fund additional staff, equipment, etc.

The government freely admits that it never believed we could achieve the targets, but GPs exceeded all expectations.

Most patients, especially those with chronic diseases, will have noticed a transformation in care at their doctor’s surgery.

Doctors applaud the government for its massive investment in the NHS. However, there is general bewilderment at where the money has gone. Only a minor part has been invested in general practice.

This attack on GPs is wholly unfair. Much of the money has been wasted by local managers developing ‘innovative’ schemes, without real clinical advice, and with few if any health gains.

Many of these schemes were encouraged by the government, as well as its more expensive ideas, such as Connecting for Health, which is costing billions.

General practice in the UK is not perfect, but it remains the envy of the world. It is unbelievably cost effective.

For a full year’s care, the average remuneration to general practice per patient for basic essential care is £54. This includes every consultation at the surgery or at home and pays for GPs, staff and practice running costs. Compare that to the cost of a call to NHS Direct (£27), or a visit to A&E (£75).

The government seems determined to privatise the NHS, encouraging foreign companies to take over care at huge cost and subsequent provision of profits for their shareholders. It is well advanced with the privatisation of hospital services, and is encouraging the same in general practice.

The attempt to undermine the public’s confidence in their GP is an attempt to destabilise general practice with obvious outcomes.

Dr Ken Megson, secretary, Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC, Dr Relton Cummings, chairman, Dr George Rae, secretary, Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, Dr Alan Dove, chairman, Dr Peter Sanderson, secretary, Northumberland LMC, Dr Paul J Linnett, chairman, Dr Roger N Ford, secretary, Sunderland LMC, Dr Ian S Winterton, chairman, regional LMC


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