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Government publishes vision for future of general practice

But GPs warn that polyclinics could undermine the positives

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 04 July 2008

Doctors have cautiously welcomed the government’s new vision for the future of general practice but warned the introduction of polyclinics would undermine much of what is positive in the plans.

The government published its new strategy: Our Vision for Primary and Community Care yesterday, as part of the Next Stage Review of the NHS. The document set out the future direction for primary care, placing emphasis on rewarding quality and on patient choice.

Commenting on the strategy, Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee said: “We know every Primary Care Trust has to build a ‘GP-led health centre’ or ‘polyclinic’ if they want any new money to invest in primary care. GPs and the one and a quarter million patients who signed our petition want to know why that money can’t be used to improve existing practices.

“There is much within this vision for primary care that is positive. We are pleased that Lord Darzi recognises the talents and professionalism of GPs and wants them to have the freedom to provide the services their patients want, and more control over how they do it.

“Many of the ideas, such as personal plans for all patients, faster and simpler access to a wider range of community based services and early intervention to improve the long-term outcomes for patients, are good and welcome. We particularly welcome the statement that 'changes will be driven not through top-down targets but by giving responsibility to the staff at local level.'”

However, he criticised Health Minister Ben Bradshaw over his comments about GP choice.

“GPs are a key part of the health workforce and rather than taking petty public swipes at family doctors as Ben Bradshaw has done, the government would be much better off working with us rather than against us. We want to see general practice be the best it can be for patients. While we welcome the good notions in this report, we are still to be convinced that previous government announcements, and by that I mean the polyclinic agenda, will do anything other than damage general practice and continuity of care for patients.”

But Mr Bradshaw said the government’s vision would give NHS staff working in primary care greater freedom and would protect the role of family doctors.

Professor Michael Dixon, chair of NHS Alliance, described the primary care strategy as “a big thumbs up for general practice”. 

(Picture: Wellcome Images)

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