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Gordon, we know what patients want

From Dr Martin Islip, LeedsOpen letter to Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Having listened to you talking about the NHS on the Today programme last weekend I was extremely disappointed to hear you plan to continue Tony Blair's disastrous NHS policies.

Walk-in centres, for instance, cater for the convenience of commuters but are duplicating the efforts of GPs, without knowledge of the patient or their history. NHS Direct has been an abject failure and, as most patients are told to ring the out-of-hours doctor or their GP, is duplicating work. What a waste of manpower and NHS money, which would have been better spent supporting existing out-of-hours co-operatives, which have a track record of success for more than 10 years. Some of this wasted money could also be spent on helping surgeries to provide evening and weekend appointments so commuters will not need walk-in centres. GPs and their staff are already working 10- or 11-hour days so if they are to provide evening appointments as well, something else will have to go, or the Government will have to fund the extra staff and overheads needed. Two years ago I wrote to my PCT to offer a Saturday morning surgery for commuters, as we have many in our area. We were told this could not be funded as a need for this service had not been demonstrated!In 1996, we opened an OOH co-operative in our surgery building, combining on-call duties with five local practices. This was incredibly successful and received many plaudits from patients, who appreciated a local service run by familiar people. It was closed down by the PCT when the new GMS contract came into force and patients now have to travel into the centre of Leeds.As for Choose and Book, I wonder how long you would be in a job if the public realised how much NHS money had been wasted on this; money which should have been spent on patient care. I hear it is more than £200m (News, 10 May)!Our practice made an effort to use the system last year (when it wasn't crashing) but in all that time only one of my patients wanted to be referred outside our local trust. Patients do not want to go to a hospital miles away to see a consultant about whom their GP knows nothing. Time and again they ask us to recommend the best person to see and our local knowledge is of the utmost importance. I don't know how well you have done your homework Mr Brown, but I have been talking to my patients for the last 28 years and I know what they want. They want to see the doctor they know in a local surgery close to their home. They want time to explain their problem and be listened to. They want to be seen within a day or two and when they need to go to hospital, they do not want to wait several weeks for an appointment. We are working flat out to help our patients in between all the paperwork and target chasing and our reception staff are doing a magnificent job for a meagre salary. Please help us to improve the GP service by putting NHS money into a system that has stood the test of time instead of into untested and unproven experiments which duplicate what we are already doing.You might then be able to claim the best primary care service in the world and, who knows, you might even stay around after the next election!

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