Tory win could mean more practice closures and privatisation, warns Gerada

The election of a Tory majority government could lead to more practice closures, marginalisation of GPs and privatisation of the NHS, former RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada has warned.

Dr Clare Gerada: concerns over Conservative government plans (Photo: Alex Deverill)
Dr Clare Gerada: concerns over Conservative government plans (Photo: Alex Deverill)

Speaking to GPonline in the wake of last week’s shock election result Professor Gerada said she was ‘very anxious’ about the future of the health service under Conservative majority rule.

A Conservative party source dismissed the former RCGP chairwoman's comments as 'baseless scaremongering'.

Dr Gerada stepped down from her position leading primary care transformation at NHS England London in the run up to the general election to campaign against a Conservative victory.

The south London GP helped organise an open letter signed by 140 doctors attacking the coalition government’s record and calling for the 2012 Health and Social Care Act to be repealed, as Labour had promised.

GP practice closures

The letter, which was criticised by the Tories as a Labour ‘stitch up’, warned that 100 GP practices were at risk of closure.

Professor Gerada told GPonline the Conservative victory meant more practices would close. If the government was ‘true to its word’ and invests £8bn a year by 2020 in the NHS, she said, maybe practices could be saved, but she added: ‘I don't think that will be the case. I think we will end up with many more services out to tender including general practice services.’

The south London GP said she had joined the Labour party because of the ‘mess’ the Tories had made of the NHS. ‘I don't think Labour's history is perfect,' she said, ‘but I still think it is the only party that truly understands the health service as a fair distribution of resources.'

A Conservative majority government would lead to ‘privatisation of our health service’, said Professor Gerada. ‘It isn't that we won't have healthcare free at the point of use - we will. It'll be like the railway service. There'll be no overall planning. There will be masses of money that goes into running the private system and we'll get less for more money.’

GP appointment pledge

A Tory pledge to guarantee same-day appointments for over 75s could increase inequalities, the former college chairwoman said, because it does not take account of the way people from deprived communities suffer health problems at a younger age.

The focus on access, with the Conservative promise of seven-day GP availability for all patients, was wrong, she added. ‘Access isn't the most important thing that equates to outcome; it's continuity. We don't need seven-day general practice.’

The abolition of practice boundaries, warned Dr Gerada, would lead to CCGs ‘cherry picking’ patients with least health needs. CCGs, she said, were quangos without democratic accountability which could develop into American-style Health Maintenance Organisations with GPs ‘marginalised’.

Professor Gerada said it had been ‘wonderful’ working at NHS England London for almost two years and they had been brave to employ her despite her outspokenness. ‘I respect Simon Stevens enormously,' she said, ‘but I couldn't stay.

‘I am freer now and I can focus back on my patients, focus on my sick doctors, my sick patients and making the world a better place for them.’

The Conservative source said: 'Labour party member and campaigner Dr Gerada tried to make these same desperate and false smears before the election – and the British public held no truck with them. It is frankly pathetic that she is resorting to this baseless scaremongering again.'

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