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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs resigned to the end of the NHS within a decade

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs are resigned to the end of the NHS within a decade, with many reluctantly prepared to work directly for the private sector, a Pulse survey reveals.

The poll of more than 500 GPs reveals the dramatic extent of the incursion of the private sector into general practice.

A quarter of GPs have already been approached by private firms with offers to team up on the provision of primary care.

Almost 40% of GPs are prepared to practise in a surgery owned by a private company, and a third are willing to work directly for a private firm.

Although few GPs support the Government's drive to introduce private competition into the NHS, most believe it will be impossible to prevent it.

Just one GP in five said they supported greater involvement of the private sector, and just under half thought the private sector could drive improvements in quality. Yet the vast majority thought major retailers would continue their incursion into primary care unabated, with many doubting the NHS could survive the reforms.

As many as 84% predicted the NHS as we know it would not exist in 10 years' time and only a third thought the NHS would still be free at the point of use in a decade's time.

Almost 90% of GPs said only by forming a private firm could they compete with the private sector – with a fifth already planning to do just that.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said it was ‘a sorry situation as we reach the 60th anniversary of the NHS'.

Dr Eric Rose, a GP in Milton Keynes, said: ‘I'm retiring soon but I will eventually be a patient and I can't see the continuity of care I have provided for 40 years being maintained.'

Dr Peter Swinyard, a GP in Somerset and joint chair of the Family Doctor Association, said he hoped some GPs would be willing to ‘take on the big boys'.

‘Some GPs will say "I don't want the hassle of administration" and will prefer to work for a private company. But fortunately there are still a number who are interested in the role of a GP as a small businessperson.'

Reacting to the survey, a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘GPs who think an NHS free at the point of use will no longer exist in the future are wrong. We will never change the core values of the NHS. The independent sector has helped improve health services for patients, helping speed up treatments, reduce waiting times and galvanise the NHS to raise its game. Our approach to the independent sector is pragmatic, not ideological.'

NHS: GPs resigned to break up NHS: GPs resigned to break up

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