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Johnson defends acting as dictator on GP-led health centres

By Steve Nowottny

Health Secretary Alan Johnson last night launched a staunch defence of his decision to force all PCTs to commission a GP-led health centre, insisting it was a fulfilment of Nye Bevan's vision.

In a keynote address to BMA members, Mr Johnson responded robustly to critics of the rollout, and claimed: ‘I think we'll look back at this and think what were we all worried about.'

‘I think if we hadn't dictated it from the centre and said that we would provide the funding from the centre… I doubt that it would ever have happened,' he said.

‘This was, I have to say, Bevan's vision... The old NHS leaflet that went through everyone's door in 1948 said eventually there will be a health centre in every location.'

Mr Johnson also played down the role of private sector providers, arguing that most of the GP-led health centre contracts had been won by local GPs – and slipped in a sly reference to BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairing the event, who himself won one of the contracts.

‘Probably in the economic climate we're in at the moment it's a bit more difficult for private sector providers,' he said. ‘Most of the contracts - even you would accept Hamish, from your experience – most of the contracts are going to existing consortia of GPs, and going to social enterprises.'

Dr Meldrum, who was revealed last month to have won an APMS contract for a new GP-led health centre in Bridlington, east Yorkshire, admitted: ‘I was expecting you'd have a dig at Bridlington.'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson Health Secretary Alan Johnson

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