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Government targets have made access harder, not easier

GPs have challenged Labour to reveal how they plan to staff a 'new generation' of community hospitals if they refuse to increase pay rates.

Announcing the £100 million proposals last week, health secretary John Reid promised to 'build, rebuild or refurbish' 50 community hospitals during the next Parliament.

The new units would provide CT scans, X-rays, outpatients and more convenient centres for day surgery.

'They are a new idea, building on the traditional values of local community hospitals but updating them,' Mr Reid said.

But GPs said ministers' determination to stick to the latest pay Review Body recommendation of just 3.225 per cent for community hospital work meant no GPs would work at the hospitals.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator on community hospitals, said the investment in the centres was welcome.

But he added: 'The Government has been very slow to come forward to the Review Body with any evidence on community hospitals. Given that, we're at a loss to see how they would staff them.'

Dr Terry McCormack, a GP in Whitby, North Yorkshire, who is campaigning against the downgrading of his local community hospital, questioned how the hospitals would function.

'It will be interesting to see how they get funded - they may well become private ventures,' he said.

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