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Independents' Day

LMC '05 conference round-up

GPs who attended a summit meeting with Patricia Hewitt last week have acclaimed it as heralding a fresh start in relations with the Government.

The new Health Secretary asked 50 GPs to attend the meeting as part of consultation with doctors ahead of a primary care White Paper next month.

Ms Hewitt has said she is determined to listen to the views of frontline GPs about the White Paper, which will propose increasing choice and contestability in primary care by bringing in more private providers.

GPs have consistently criticised the Government for failing to listen to their views and not consulting them on major changes to the NHS.

Plans to hold US-style mass focus group meetings as part of consultation on the White Paper were also attacked last week for creating 'unrealistic' expections among patients.

But GPs at the meeting said Ms Hewitt seemed to listen genuinely to their concerns. They said this was the first time a Health Secretary had sought out their opinions.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said Ms Hewitt displayed a very different style of leadership from her predecessors John Reid and Alan Milburn.

He said: 'I think on this occasion we have got a minister who wants to listen and actually look for radical solutions based on what we say.'

Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a GP in Croydon and a medical director of NHS Direct, said the style of meeting was 'revolutionary'.

He said: 'It seems there is a real commitment to develop primary care and GPs are a significant and important part of that. But how much of what we said will appear in the White Paper we don't know.'

GPs said they raised many issues with Ms Hewitt, including:

·the need to develop more primary care services

·the need for a more personal patient-focused system

·direct access to diagnostics, X-rays and scans

·the importance of single registration

·more funding for GP premises

·improved relationships bet-ween GPs and hospitals

Dr Mayur Lakhani, RCGP chair, urged GPs to drop their cynicism and develop a positive agenda for change.

'The minister positively received the idea of the value of general practice and the practice as a unit of care,' Dr Lakhani said.

He added:: 'I would urge GPs not to be cynical. I understand why they might be but this has a very different feel about it.'

By Daile Pepper

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