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Foundation hospitals furore buries threat of surge in GP complaints

GPs have been warned they face a surge in financially motivated complaints and a hike in defence subscriptions because of a clause 'hidden' in the Government's controversial Health and Social Care Bill.

The Medical Protection Society said the high-profile dispute over the creation of foundation hospitals had buried concerns about a clause that left open the option of secondary legislation that would allow patients to seek compensation through the NHS complaints system.

Dr Gerard Panting, director of communications and policy for the MPS, said the proposal could cost the NHS 'vast sums of money' and dent morale among GPs.

He said: 'When it comes

to general practice, if there

is a compensation mechanism within the complaints procedure a proportion of patients will be driven to remain dissatisfied until they get compensation.' GPs' defence subscriptions could rise to cover the cost, he added.

The warning came as the Commons health select committee raised fears the creation of foundation hospitals could come at the expense of GPs.

'We welcome the Government's aim of shifting power from the secondary to the primary care sector and it is vital these proposals do not reverse this trend,' said the committee's inquiry into foundation hospitals, published last week.

The Government had re-cognised the need to shift the 'balance of power, resources and prestige' from hospitals to primary care and GPs were well-placed to take on much outpatient care, the report concluded. 'Yet, paradoxically, the policy of foundation trusts positions acute trusts as paragons of innovative service delivery before community-based services driven by PCTs have had the chance to demonstrate their worth,' it warned.

Committee chair David Hinchliffe told Pulse: 'For 50 years we have had problems arising out of demands on hospitals and have not applauded or been fulfilling the immense potential of primary care. Just as we are about to go down the road of enhancing its role we roll back and go down the road of super hospitals.'

NHS Alliance chair Dr Mike Dixon said he was in favour of devolution but echoed Mr Hinchliffe's concerns. 'If you free up secondary care but keep primary care shackled you are likely to create a bias to secondary care.'

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