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Scotland fights to prevent privatisation of general practice

Call made to Scottish Parliament to halt polyclinic culture

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 03 June 2009

The BMA is today calling on the Scottish Parliament Health Committee to support government plans to remove the ability for commercial companies to provide NHS general practice services to patients.

The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Bill includes proposals to amend the 1978 NHS Act to remove the ability for commercial companies to hold primary medical services contracts. It is this clause, says the BMA, that has allowed the rapid expansion of commercially provided NHS GP services in England.

Dr Dean Marshall, a GP in Midlothian and Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “Doctors across Scotland welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to a publicly provided and delivered NHS. The concept of providing care ‘from the cradle to the grave’ still rings true today and it is the bond of trust between patient and GP that is most valued by the public. Accountability to a commercial employer and short term contracts are an uncertain basis for the long term relationship between professionals and patients upon which effective primary care depends.

“Commercial providers of primary care services usually have a responsibility to their shareholders to make a profit whereas the NHS GP has the care of patients at the heart of their decision making."

Dr Marshall warned that patient care would suffer and that services that are not profitable would be lost, should commercial providers be awarded contracts to provide primary medical services.

"The provision of services in rural areas and deprived communities are costly and rather than increase services, particularly in rural areas, in the long term it will not be viable for commercial providers to maintain certain services and patient care and access to health services will diminish,” he said.

Also appearing before the Health Committee on behalf of the BMA is UK General Practitioners Committee representative, Dr Beth McCarron Nash, a practising GP in Cornwall. She said: "GPs in England have seen the negative impact of the commercialisation agenda, with the imposition of privately run polyclinics. We are concerned that these changes will fragment patient care and have a detrimental effect on the local health economy. We believe Government policies in England to allow commercially-run firms to provide NHS services are not delivering as promised, and they risk fragmenting patient care.

“We don't want to see Scotland go the same way."

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