Tory plans to return out-of-hours to GPs

The Conservatives have pledged to force GPs to take back responsibility for out-of-hours care.

Tory leader David Cameron announced that the party would renegotiate the GMS contract if it came into power.

Under the Conservative proposals, GPs would commission out-of-hours care either through their own practice, a co-op or other provider.

A recent GP poll found that more than twice as many GPs would vote Conservative as would vote Labour in a general election (GP, 31 August).

But the party's new health pledges will not find favour with GPs or the public according to GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey.

'It's almost as though our politicians are trying to out do each other in the stupidity stakes. The Conservatives have completely missed the point. The issue is not commissioning, but resources. There are plenty of good out-of-hours consortia but they don't have sufficient funding', he said.

Prior to the announcement, out-of-hours care was a contentious topic on Stand Up Speak Up, a Conservative party website launched in July to garner public opinion on policy.

A letter fighting the corner for GPs sent by GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden to his MP has been posted on the website.

Dr Holden said: 'Since the NHS was set up it has relied on GPs going the extra mile. The worm has turned. People don't realise what out-of-hours work took out of us. Politicians are putting out the message that with general practice the public is not getting their money's worth, but the reality is the GMS contract cost around 6 per cent of the extra £45 billion that has been ploughed into the NHS. By my money that is good value.'

In reply many GPs posted messages saying they would leave the NHS if forced to take on out-of-hours work again.

One GP left an anonymous post on Stand Up Speak Up saying he or she is leaving the country to go 'somewhere where I am valued'. Another wrote: 'Strange to spend your entire working career at war. Politicians have done more to destroy the health service than anything else.'

A spokeswoman for the Conservative party said people had misunderstood the plan.

She said: 'Our position is quite clear: we do not want to rubbish GPs in the way the government seems to be doing. But we think that GPs are the best people to control out-of-hours care and we want to hand them back control.We reject the Darzi model for the same reasons we differ on this issue from the government - we think it would do away with the much-loved GPs.'

henry.ellis@haymarket.com

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