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Independents' Day

I'm not paranoid, I am being diddled!

The Government has fixed its flagship listening exercise on the future of primary care to ensure it backs pre-stated plans for dual registration, walk-in centres and an increase in private providers.

GPs and leading academics attacked the Your Health, Your Care, Your Say consultation as 'constrained' and meaningless after its launch last week.

GPC negotiators also bran-ded ministers' claims to have no preconceptions about the outcome of the consultation as 'cobblers'.

The assault came as the listening exercise began with a focus group of 89 people at Gateshead leisure centre and the release of an internet survey.

Academics who specialise in patients' views said both methods of consultation were too narrowly focused on access and self-care.

Professor Angela Coulter, chief executive of the Picker Institute Europe, said the debate had been constrained to focus on the Government's 'specific agenda'.

She added: 'That's to introduce more contestability into primary care, but that's not necessarily what patients want.'

Professor George Freeman, professor of general practice at Imperial College London, said the consultation was rushed. He added: 'They need to ask a wider range of questions.'

Professor Martin Roland, director of the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, said: 'There is a restricted range of questions, mainly around access.'

And Dr Richard Lewis, fellow in health policy with the King's Fund, said: 'We need to be careful of making a false assumption that primary care is beyond anything but radical repair.'

In its response to the Great Pulse Patient Survey, the Department of Health admitted it believed general practice needed to change and detailed plans to offer the public dual registration and 'guaranteed' access.

A spokesman said: 'NHS Direct, NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries centres

already offer new ways for

patients to get health care and the public consultation may well generate proposals for expansion of such services or changes to the registration


Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said Government claims that it had no preconceptions about the outcome of the consultation were 'cobblers'. He added: 'That's not cynicism it's reality. The papers and legislation are already written.'

By Rob Finch

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