GPs swing behind calls for BMA debate
By Ian Quinn
Exclusive: An overwhelming majority of GPs believe the BMA should hold a national meeting to discuss the NHS reforms, as opposition to plans for GP commissioning reaches its highest level since they were first announced, a Pulse survey reveals.
A snapshot poll of GP opinion on the eve of the health bill's publication found fewer than one GP in four now supports the plans to hand the profession responsibility for £80bn of NHS budget. Of more than 160 GPs who took part in the poll, almost two-thirds said they opposed the plans.
And grassroots GPs have swung behind calls for the BMA to hold a Special Representative Meeting to debate the Government's plans, ahead of an expected vote on the issue by BMA Council next week.
Four out of five GPs – including a majority of those who back the Government's plans – believe the BMA should call the meeting, despite Council twice voting to reject the move.
GP support for commissioning has fallen since two similar polls in July and September, which showed support running at 51% and 38% respectively.
Dr Steven Lindall, a GP in Walthamstow, north-east London, in one of the first pathfinder consortia, claimed the commissioning plans will see ‘a few politically active and ambitious GPs running things instead of PCTs'.
‘Grassroots GPs will have no more say than previously,' he said. ‘But they will get the blame from their patients and particularly the Daily Mail when material changes and improvements continue to founder, as they have done for many years. I am 51 and will not be in the NHS when I'm 55.'
The poll also showed opposition to GP consortia signing deals with the private sector. More than 70% said they would not approve of their consortium taking part in such a deal, raising the possibility of friction with consortia, many of which are signing up private firms.
Dr John Orchard, a GP in Alfreton, Derbyshire, said: ‘The BMA is not representative because it does not listen. With every change since I qualified, it has behaved like King Canute.'
Dr Helena McKeown, a GP in Salisbury and BMA Council member, said she was now convinced of the need for a Special Representative Meeting: ‘Amid the news of gung-ho pathfinder GP consortia, we should consider the ramifications of the liberation offered by enforced plurality.'
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC lead negotiator for commissioning, said: ‘Ultimately the BMA is a democratic organisation and it has to respond to what its members want. If there is sufficient demand for a meeting, then that is their democratic entitlement.'
But Dr Stewart Findlay, a member of the County Durham and Darlington Federation, said commissioning was a ‘huge opportunity': ‘This will be the first time clinicians will have a real role in commissioning.'
Dr John Orchard Survey