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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Real impact truly assessed

There may have been a change at the top of the NHS, but there is certainly no change in direction. If anything, it is hurtling even faster along the road to privatisation.

The blandly-titled 'Regulatory Impact Assessment' for the White Paper, which we cover on pages 1, 2 and 3, reveals more about the upheaval to be inflicted on general practice than the document it assesses.

It could not be more explicit: 'Increased competition among practices for patients', 'New providers need not be traditional GPs but may enter from the private sector'.

Its release also coincided with the starting gun being fired in the race to get private providers into general practice.

Sir Ian Carruthers, acting NHS chief executive, this week summoned the 30 most under-doctored PCTs to Richmond House to tell them they have 12 months to get new providers into their area. And if they haven't started already, the Department of Health will do it for them.

Beyond comparison

It's hard not to compare the position in England with that of Scotland. On page 20, Scottish health minister Andy Kerr derides most of Patricia Hewitt's reforms.

PBC? Patients don't want it, GPs don't need it. Choose and Book? Pointless. Private firms in general practice? No thanks. His summary of the reforms? 'Whatever the rest of the UK does, good for them.' What he really means is 'bad for them'.

And he's right.

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