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Scrapping practice boundaries 'crazy', warns RCGP

By Gareth Iacobucci

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field has rebuffed health minister Mike O'Brien's claims that the college supports the abolition of practice boundaries.

In his keynote speech to the RCGP's annual conference in Glasgow, Professor Field received a standing ovation from delegates after spelling out his opposition to removing GP catchment areas.

The riposte came after the health minister claimed in his speech to the conference yesterday that the Government's controversial plans had the full support of the college, which drew derision from GP delegates.

Professor Field said that while the college was open to discussions for the few patients who may benefit from system changes, the plans would prevent GPs from being 'leaders in the local community', one of the central themes of his speech.

‘Let's be clear, I do not support the abolition of practice lists or practice boundaries,' Professor Field said.

‘There's a significant minority of patients who want the continuity of care provided by GPs but can't get it because technically their home is not where they spend most of their time. We said we'd work with them to find some solutions, but we do not support the abolition of practice boundaries. They are so, so, important.'

He added: ‘It would be crazy - if you don't have a boundary, how can you be a leader in a local community?'

Professor Field used his speech to challenge GPs to take on greater leadership roles in the health service, which he said was crucial if the NHS was to successfully navigate the financial crisis.

He also said it was time for the Government to reign in spending on management costs, and entrust more power to clinicians to make key decisions about patients care.

‘A strong primary care saves money. It's a scandal, the millions spent on management costs in the DH. What we could do with that money in primary care.'

‘What I want to get across is leadership, leadership, leadership. That's the key for the next year. GPs need to stand up and assert ourselves as leaders.'

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field RCGP chair Professor Steve Field

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