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Primary care tsar backs GPs

By Gareth Iacobucci

Sweeping reforms to general practice could ‘throw out the baby with bathwater', and endanger ‘the heritage of general practice,' the Government's primary care tsar has warned.

Professor David Colin-Thome, national clinical director for Primary Care at the Department of Health, said offering more choice to patients by inviting in private providers should not come at the expense of continuity of care.

He said: ‘To throw away the idea that patients want ‘their doctor' would be throwing out the heritage of general prac-tice.

‘We might throw out the baby with the bathwater.'

However, he admitted: ‘We need to address unwanted variation. A small amount of choice makes people more responsive. We need to ad-dress where more choice would drive change.'

Professor Colin-Thome was speaking at the relaunch of the Family Doctor Association (FDA) (formerly the Small Practice Association), which has retained its previous remit of promoting continuity of care and providing business advice to member practices, while promising to ‘take on the Tesco and Boots threat.'

The latest example of this threat emerged last week, as Heart of Birmingham PCT invited the likes of Virgin, Tesco and Asda to take on ‘corporate franchises' of 24 polyclinic-style ‘primary care units', which would subsume 76 smaller practices.

Despite his warning; when asked whether he supported the controversial ‘corporate franchising' model, Professor Colin-Thome said he wasn't against ‘radical approaches' like those proposed for tack-ling inner city health problems.

He said: ‘I'm not against fran-chising, and I'm not against what Heart of Birmingham wants to do if there is clinical engagement. Inner cities need radical approaches.'

He said the franchising model would address unwanted varia-tion, but warned that ‘the devil will be in the detail' in terms of how the scheme is rolled out.

Dr Michael Taylor, chairman of the FDA, said the associa-tion wanted to tackle the gov-ernment's ‘ignorance' about the importance of family doc-toring, and was stepping up its recruitment drive to increase its membership beyond the 2,000 member practices, and 6,000 GPs currently registered.

Dr Peter Swinyard, honourary secretary of the FDA, said the association needed to future proof practices against ‘malign competition', and said the polyclinic model presented a ‘grave danger' for patients.

Dr David Colin-Thome

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