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Profession unconvinced by white paper reforms, King's Fund survey finds

By Steve Nowottny

GPs and hospital doctors are sceptical of the Government's health reforms, do not believe they will improve patient care and fear they will hamper the NHS's efforts to achieve massive efficiency savings, a large-scale survey by the King's Fund has found.

A poll of 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors, carried out on behalf of the think tank by Doctors.net.uk, has uncovered a catalogue of fears about health secretary Andrew Lansley's plans, laid out in the white paper published in July.

It also reveals some support from the profession for stricter rationing of NHS treatments, with more than a third of GPs in favour of limiting access to cosmetic procedures, fertility treatments and obesity surgery in order to help achieve eficiency savings.

Fewer than one in four respondents agreed that the white paper reforms will improve the quality of patient care, while almost 40% of respondents disagreed. And just over one in five doctors said they believed that the NHS would be able to maintain its focus on improving efficiency while implementing the proposed reforms.

The survey comes after a Pulse poll last month revealed that support among GPs for commissioning had fallen significantly since the plans were first launched in July.

However today's King's Fund survey did find that more than 60% of GPs believe that there are GPs within their area who would be well placed to lead the new GP consortia.

Anna Dixon, director of policy at the King's Fund, said: 'The Government is relying on doctors to deliver its health reforms. It can take some comfort from the finding that the majority of GPs believe there is capacity in their area to lead new GP consortia. But this survey highlights significant scepticism among doctors about the Government's proposals and shows that ministers have a lot of work to do to convince them that the reforms will improve patient care.'

Health secretary Andrew Lansley responded to the survey by insisting: 'Reform isn't an option, it's a necessity in order to sustain and improve our NHS.'

He added: 'The reforms are far reaching but they also build upon existing designs. But we recognise with any significant changes, there may be concerns - that is why we have been consulting on the details.'

'We know there is an appetite to understand better what the reforms will mean in practice for individual organisations and patients. That is why we have already announced a programme where GP consortia can start testing these principles.'

Anna Dixon

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