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Less than 1 in 4 doctors think reform will improve patient care

Survey reveals GP confidence in their colleagues' ability to run GP consortia

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 25 October 2010

Less than a quarter of doctors believe the government’s health reforms will improve patient care. This is the finding from a new survey commissioned by The King’s Fund with an online organisation.

The survey revealed significant scepticism among doctors – less than 1 in 4 said they thought the proposal would improve patient care, and just over 1 in 5 believed the NHS would be able to maintain its focus on improving efficiency while implementing the proposed reforms.

Over 40% said it would be more difficult to tackle health inequalities under GP commissioning, although more positively the majority of general practitioners (60%) said they believed there were GPs in their area with the capacity to lead the new GP consortia and 39% thought the reforms would encourage closer working between GPs and hospital doctors.

Speaking to OnMedica Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s GP’s Committee, said the scepticism about the reforms overall was unsurprising.

“There is weariness over organisational changes. Most GPs have lived through changes every two to three years and so are sceptical about any future changes, especially as the existing problems of an increasingly ageing population and limited resource remain.”

The survey also revealed mixed views about the likely impact of other aspects of the reforms:
 
Only around a quarter agree that giving responsibility for public health to local authorities will make it easier to tackle major health issues, with nearly half disagreeing with this.

The survey, which was undertaken before last week’s Spending Review announcement, also sought views about how to improve efficiency in the NHS. It asked respondents to identify the three most effective ways of improving efficiency from a list of options:
 
Over 60% chose improved collaboration between different health services and professionals. Around a third chose reducing the range of services and treatments available on the NHS (cosmetic surgery, fertility treatment and treatments for obesity were the services most often mentioned for cutting) and just over a quarter opted for reconfiguring local services with cuts in some areas. Only 1 in 10 chose reducing staffing levels.
 
Commenting on the findings, Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said: “The Government is relying on doctors to deliver its health reforms. It can take some comfort from the finding that the majority of GPs believe there is capacity in their area to lead new GP consortia. But this survey highlights significant scepticism among doctors about the government’s proposals and shows that ministers have a lot of work to do to convince them that the reforms will improve patient care.”

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