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GPs warned to check QOF pay

The election may be over, but the Pulse campaign to make politicians listen to GPs' concerns continues, as Dr George Rae explains

GPs in the North-East have been gathering support from their patients in the battle to safeguard the core values enshrined in general practice. Now Pulse, in partnership with Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, plans to build up a national patient support base ­ and we need your help. Here,

Dr George Rae highlights the multitude of policy initiatives that threaten traditional GP ideals ­ and issues a personal plea for all Pulse readers to get involved in this important initiative.

Few GPs would disagree that the traditional role of the GP is under serious threat on several fronts.

Fragmentation of care via walk-in centres, community matrons and a raft of other schemes; plans to give private companies contracts to run

essential services; uncertainty about the future of registered lists and the erosion of respect for the GP generalist ­ the list could go on.

In our area in the North-East there is already concern about Government plans for private treatment centres, particularly their lack of integration into how we deliver primary care.

It would be very sad to lose the knowledge base pertaining to the holistic aspect of primary care that has been built up over so many years. It would also be to the detriment of patient care.

In September last year Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC wrote a document looking at the future role of GPs in our area. This was followed by a conference in November when 100 GPs from around the region attended and gave their views.

We decided that one of the best ways to counter this threat would be to confirm that patients share GPs' concerns about, for example, continuity of care from a GP they know.

We designed a questionnaire aimed at patients and had it independently audited to ensure it was rigorous and unbiased. We then sent it out to local practices so they could gather their patients' views.

Results have just become available and the headline findings were reported in Pulse last week. In large measure they show that patients do value the same aspects of traditional general practice as GPs ­ the place of a GP they know as the central co-ordinator of their ongoing care, with care based on practice populations.

More than 90 per cent of patients in Newcastle and North Tyneside said it was important to them to see a GP who knew them and their family history ­ a rousing endorsement of traditional general practice. Some 87 per cent also said it was important to continue to be looked after by the same doctor.

And the results confirmed that it was GPs from the same practice rather than practice nurses or doctors at drop-in centres that patients wanted to see. Only 9 per cent said they would prefer to see a doctor at a drop-in centre immediately rather than wait longer to see a GP at their own practice.

Almost 90 per cent of patients said all health care should be provided by the NHS, but the survey showed they wouldn't recoil from private provision where it was a cheaper option for the Government to provide.

Finally, well over half of patients surveyed said trust in GPs had not diminished in the wake of recent scandals with some 300 patients also adding comments to their questionnaires, the overwhelming majority of which were very positive and appreciative of general practice.

The GPC and RCGP have both undertaken and will continue to do sterling work, advocating and promoting the values of general practice. If, together with your help, we can replicate these findings in a national survey, we can give them an immensely powerful message to take to the politicians and policymakers who seem to have forgotten the very values that general practice embodies.

A strong patient endorsement of those values could be a crucial tool in the battle to protect your future role.

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