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Independents' Day

Government is forcing GP surgery closures, BMA campaign warns

By Steve Nowottny

The BMA today launched a hard-hitting public campaign defending traditional general practice, warning patients their local surgery could be forced out of business as a result of the Government's polyclinics and privatisation agenda.

A striking image to be displayed on posters and newspaper adverts shows four pictures of a corner shop, dentist, post office and high street bank, all closed, with a stark warning: ‘Will your GP surgery be next?'

The high-profile and costly campaign, which will culminate in the delivery of a ‘birthday card' petitions to Downing Street next month, is is the beginning of the long-awaited BMA fightback after more than a year of anti-GP spin.

Campaign boxes containing posters, leaflets, stickers and petitions will this week be sent to every GP practice in the country, while LMCs will coordinate local campaigns. Adverts will also be taken out in the trade and national press to coincide with a week of protest in early June.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Family doctors are deeply worried that GP surgeries will go the same way as local branches of banks and post offices which have disappeared in many parts of the country.'

‘You can always improve on general practice - but improving doesn't mean putting it out of business.'

With tendering already underway, Dr Buckman admitted it was unlikely the Government would completely reverse its plans for at least one polyclinic in every PCT. But he said: ‘This isn't a campaign with victor and vanquished, it's a campaign with an end result.'

Asked what he would consider a successful end result, he said: ‘Polyclinics and health centres are all in the hands of NHS GPs, and they only exist where public and patients believe they should be.'

‘This shouldn't be seen as a political attack,' he said. ‘It should be possible for local health economies to say ‘we don't think this is appropriate for our area.'

The BMA's campaign poster

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