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Pay row 'damages GP image'

NHS Confederation chief executive Dr Gill Morgan has warned GPs they are making themselves appear mercenary to the public in attacking the Government over pay.

Her accusation came as she said arguments over Government policies risked damaging the NHS and called for a 'moratorium on hyperbole' and 'grown-up debates'.

She told the annual confederation conference in London last week: 'A negative headline about pay makes GPs seem venal.'

She added: 'Squabbles among ourselves carried out on the front page of newspapers may give a short-term warm glow but in the end make us look as if we have forgotten our primary duty to patients and the public.'

We all need to pull together and be very aware of the impact of what we say on staff morale, public opinion and the direction of health policy. 'Every negative headline fuels the public myth that we are failing.'

Afterwards, health secretary Patricia Hewitt, a source of much of GPs' anger and, along with the Government itself, subject of a vote of no confidence at the recent LMCs conference, told the delegates that flagship New Labour health policies such as practice-based commissioning would continue under Gordon Brown's premiership.

Despite being widely tipped to lose her own job come Mr Brown's first Cabinet reshuffle, Ms Hewitt said: 'Don't worry that these new tools are about to be taken away from you.'

But reports that the new Prime Minister, who officially takes over from Tony Blair this week, will devolve day-to-day control of the NHS to an independent board are wide of the mark, she predicted.

The BMA has called for an independent board to depoliticise the health service, and some reports have suggested Mr Brown might take early action, in the same way he gave the Bank of England independence to set interest rates on his first day as Chancellor.

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