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Alan Johnson: 'I couldn't care less which GP I see'

By Steve Nowottny

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has sparked outrage among GPs at the launch of one of the first of the new wave of GP-led health centres – by claiming he ‘couldn't care less' which doctor he saw.

Opening the Resolution Health Centre in North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, Mr Johnson attacked BMA opposition to the national rollout as ‘perverse', and claimed: ‘This is about adding capacity, it is not about threatening practices as someone disgracefully suggested.'

But it was his dismissive remarks about continuity of care that most angered GPs. Asked about the BMA's concerns that GP-led health centres could damage the doctor-patient relationship, Mr Johnson said: ‘I personally could not care less which GP I see.'

BMA Council member Dr Kailash Chand said: ‘Coming from a health secretary this was a very irresponsible comment.'

‘The real problem we have in the NHS is chronic disease management. If you don't care about continuity of care, then the whole concept of chronic disease management suffers.'

Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP in Wimbledon, south London, said: ‘It may not matter if he only needs antibiotics for a chest infection, but if a patient is facing a diagnosis of cancer and wants to know that the GP will be there for her or him in the future it matters profoundly what doctor they see.'

‘When I have been away from the practice for a few weeks I always come back to a number of patients who have waited to see me because I already know their story and they don't want to go through the whole thing again.'

And Dr Andrew Mimnagh, chair of Sefton LMC, said: ‘This attitude of "generic healthcare" does indeed reflect a trend among the younger population and politicians especially. It is interesting that Mr Johnson probably takes more care to select his solicitor than his doctor.'

A spokesperson for Alan Johnson told Pulse his comments, reported by a local paper, were made ‘in a jokey sort of manner' and had been ‘taken very much out of context'.

‘The point he was making is you need to have primary care access and facilities to meet patients needs and demands,' she said. ‘He was saying some people always want to see their own GP, and other people aren't worried.'

Mr Johnson is no stranger to controversy at the opening of GP-led health centres. Opening the country's first such centre in Bradford in November, he launched a stinging attack on the quality of single-handed GP practices, claiming ‘some don't even reach 1948 standards.'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson Health Secretary Alan Johnson

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