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The Labour Party conference witnesses fierce showdown as lone GP goes on attack over Government's record

By Daile Pepper

Health minister Lord Warner has denied there is a Government agenda against singlehanders following a public lambasting by a GP.

During a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton Dr Hanume Thimme-gowda insisted Lord Warner explain the apparent dislike for lone practitioners.

In an impassioned speech, and almost shouting, Dr Thimmegowda, a singlehanded GP in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, said patients around the country were suffering from a lack of choice over type of practice.

‘Why is the Government so against singlehanders?' he demanded to know.

Lord Warner, clearly exasperated, denied there was a concerted effort to terminate singlehanders. In a robust defence, Lord Warner said bigger practices provided better choices for patients.

‘It is a fact of life that bigger conglomerates of doctors in a single practice often enables them to provide a bigger range of services,' he said.

‘This idea that there is this secret Government conspiracy to do away with singlehanded practice is simply not true,' he said. ‘There is nothing in anything we have done which actually works against the interest of small practice.' He added he had visited 40-50 practices and noticed increasing numbers of them sharing accommodation, records systems and support staff ‘because they actually think they can provide better service'.

Dr Thimmegowda then followed the minister, who was late for the Prime Minister's conference speech, from the room in an attempt to hammer home his concern, and the two talked briefly. Dr Thimmegowda told Pulse he had no personal motivation for his concern, but was expressing a general anxiety about the fate of his


Dr Michael Taylor, Small Practices Association chair, said Lord Warner was disingenuous in his response. He said he was continually being told of PCTs harassing singlehanded GPs.

‘There are some PCTs that take a dim view of singlehanded practice and the Department of Health has not lifted a finger to intervene,' he said.

GP Dr John Cormack, a singlehander in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, labelled the minister's stance ‘complete rubbish'.

He said: ‘It is clear that it is genocide really. This Government is saying patients can choose whatever they like but this is what this Government has chosen for them.'

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