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Poll reveals growing doubts over plans for GP commissioning

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Ministers are facing an uphill struggle to win the profession's support for their far-reaching plans to hand GPs commissioning powers, a Pulse poll reveals today.

Our survey of 210 GPs suggests that support for health secretary Andrew Lansley's proposals has fallen away since the launch of the white paper in July, with more now opposing than backing the plans as the deadline for responses to the consultation draws near.

The poll comes as health secretary Andrew Lansley sought to recapture the early momentum of the white paper, in a personal letter to every GP urging them to grasp the opportunities.

Asked if they backed plans to hand GPs commissioning responsibility, 38% told our survey yes but 49% said no, compared with 51% saying yes and 31% no in a similar poll after the white paper was launched.

Just 28% said they believed general practice had the capability to manage the proposed £80bn commissioning budget, while 59% did not, against 38% saying yes and 38% no in July's poll. GPs were split over the Government's plan to scrap PCTs, with 40% backing the move but 45% opposing it.

Last week Pulse revealed Mr Lansley had written to every GP in England, urging them to grasp the opportunities presented by commissioning and pledging to pave the way by making PCTs open their books and provide unprecedented access to their contracts and spending plans.

Mr Lansley faces a race against time to win round doubters, with 11 October the deadline for consultation responses. Government sources said it was thought to be the first time a health secretary had written personally to all GPs.

Dr Robert Leach, a GP in Leicester who opposed the plans in the Pulse poll, said: ‘All this is doing is making us responsible for Government cuts – I can see the Daily Mail headlines. And it's taking clinicians away from clinical work.'

Dr Dominique Thompson, a GP in Bristol, said the move to scrap PCTs was right but warned: ‘We mustn't underestimate the work they do.'

Dr David Jenner, senior policy adviser for the NHS Alliance, said: ‘I'm concerned that there has been a lack of detail from the Government about its proposals, which has made many GPs nervous.'

Dr Dominique Thompson: GPs must analyse PCTs' work now to avoid glitches during handover Dr Dominique Thompson: GPs must analyse PCTs' work now to avoid glitches during handover

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