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Independents' Day

Commissioning GPs may face referral restrictions



The Great Pulse Patient Survey was launched as a joint venture with Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC. Here LMC secretary Dr George Rae explains how patients have sent a powerful message to policymakers.

The traditional role of the GP is under serious threat on several fronts. We are imminently to be squeezed between APMS on the one hand and foundation trusts on the other.

Professional concerns surrounding fragmentation of care are well-known. Walk-in centres, 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 all contribute to those fears.

We must fight for the preservation of the core ethos values of general practice. We in Newcastle and North Tyneside felt the best way of doing that was to show patients share and want to preserve those same core values. The findings from the Pulse survey have now confirmed that on a national scale, sending an immensely powerful message to the politicians.

The survey unequivocally demonstrates that patients want to build up a relationship with their own personal doctor ­ not just 'a doctor' or 'any doctor'.

It must not be lost on politicians that though many patients look upon drop-in clinics as convenient, this survey shows that when set against seeing their own GP, there is absolutely no doubt that patients strongly prefer the latter.

The value attached to continuity of care is underpinned by this survey, underlining the necessity for every new policy initiative to be measured according to its benefit or threat against this crucial yardstick.

Access is rightly important to patients. In this survey, the majority of patients state that, in urgent cases, they are able to see their GP within hours. Politicians please take note!

Though choice is shown to be important to patients, the message coming from the survey is that 40 per cent of patients want to go their nearest hospital ­ with one of the highest votes for this coming from London and the South-East.

With confirmation that recent scandals have done little to dent trust in GPs and a robust endorsement of the NHS, this patient survey has given strong patient reinforcement to our core values.

At the LMCs conference in June, our representatives asserted in the strongest possible terms their commitment to holistic, list-based, patient-orientated general practice. The debates took place against the background that continuity of care is under a steady and growing threat.

The emphatic message emerging from the survey findings ­ that patients support traditional general practice and want continuity of care preserved ­ should be helpful to the GPC as it continues its work on our behalf.

Patients do value the place of their GP as the central co-ordinator of their ongoing care. This message will prove crucial in the battle to protect our future role.

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