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CBI attacks ministers over block on private GP surgeries

By Gareth Iacobucci

Business leaders have attacked Government proposals to ban private sector providers from running GP services in Scotland.

The claim was made by the CBI in it's response to a Scottish Government consultation on the issue, which described the move as ‘dogmatic' and not in the best interest of patients.

The CBI said giving new providers the chance to compete in offering primary medical services would increase patients' access to care, particularly in so-called under-doctored areas.

The move by Scottish ministers is the latest development in the divergence of health policy between the devolved nations and England, where ministers remain committed to greater private sector involvement.

David Lonsdale, CBI Scotland's assistant director, said: ‘New commercial providers could help raise the quality of primary care and improve access for patients, especially in areas with too few doctors or for employees who find it difficult to visit a surgery during standard opening hours.

‘The vast majority of GPs do an excellent job, however the Scottish Government should be looking to build on this by encouraging the use of independent providers as a means of expanding capacity and enhancing innovation so that patients can get an even better service.

‘We fear that dogmatic opposition to letting new independent providers offer GP services will mean patients lose out. We therefore urge the devolved government to reconsider its trenchant position on this issue and drop its plans to legislate to ban firms from providing GP services.'

But a spokesperson for Scottish Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended the decision: ‘Everyone who uses the health service in Scotland needs to be confident in the advice and treatment they are offered.

‘That is why we are proposing to amend the law to ensure that General Practice is provided only by those with a direct interest in the patients they treat and in the good of the wider NHS.

‘The Scottish Government is committed to the vision of a mutual NHS underpinned by the values of public service, of co-operation and collaboration, which is why I believe that commercial companies, where shareholders may not be part of or have a direct interest in the NHS, should not be used to provide such vital front-line services.'

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