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GPs: bedrock of the NHS

Tony Blair

GPs are the bedrock of our NHS. Without your skills, professionalism and dedication, the NHS simply could not meet its vital role in our country.

So let me start by thanking you for all you have done and for your determination to continue improving health care. We are determined to support you.

It's your hard work ­ backed by unprecedented investment in primary care ­ which has seen such excellent progress in improving access to GPs and primary care professionals. The challenge now is to sustain this improvement.

So we are working hard to increase GP numbers. The number of GPs has increased by 12 per cent since 1997 and the number of GP registrars has reached record levels. We have put in place a new recruitment and retention package.

We have also agreed the new GP contract ­ arguably the most ambitious single step to reform primary care since the NHS was created. It moves decisively away from paying GPs by the number of patients in their practice towards rewarding quality of care.

Resources are more fairly allocated. The result is to increase the importance and role of GPs in the health care system, leading to better chronic disease management and fewer pressures on hospitals.

This will also be the outcome of practice-based commissioning. It is a sign of our confidence in GPs and our determination to devolve decision-making to the frontline.

By allowing GP practices to directly commission services, it will lead to local innovation and flexible high-quality care.

I realise not everything we are doing has the support of all GPs. Choose and Book is controversial but increasing patient choice is at the heart of our drive to continue improving the NHS.

All these changes will be backed by record and increased investment in primary care. It is funding which supports your efforts to improve patient care ­ an ambition the Government shares.

Pledges

·Use Choose and Book to promote patient choice

·Involve all practices in practice-based commissioning by 2008

·£100 million for 50 new community hospitals

·Cervical screening results within a week and women with suspected breast Ca to see a specialist within two weeks

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