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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Why I support the Pulse Manifesto for General Practice

PCTs are using 'gestapo' tactics to drive singlehanders out of business as part of a Government-inspired crusade to push GPs into bigger practices.

Singlehanded GPs have accused trusts of bullying and intimidation and even of suspending them without any evidence of clinical failings.

In two east London PCTs, at least five GPs have recently either been suspended, removed from the practitioners list or threatened with similar action.

One of the PCTs, Redbridge, even admitted it did not believe singlehanded practice was the 'best way of providing services' ­ though it denied bullying GPs.

GPs said the revelations made a mockery of ministers' claims they had no agenda to close small practices.

One GP, who asked not to be named, said Waltham Forest PCT closed his practice last month after it did a quality visit in the middle of electrical work which meant computers could not be used. The GP said: 'My only argument with the PCT had been about computer upgrades, which they refused to do.

'I pleaded with them not to visit while I had work going on but they came anyway then just closed me down. My legal team found out it was due to the lack of computerisation.'

Dr David Shubhaker, secretary of Redbridge and Wal-tham Forest LMCs, accused the trusts of 'gestapo tactics'. He said the GPs had been treated 'unfairly, without attention to procedure and in a heavy-handed way'.

He added: 'It looks like they are trying to drive them out so they can make way for these larger practices.'

James Slater, director of primary and interface care at Waltham Forest PCT, denied trying to force small practices to close.

But Dr Michael Taylor, chair of the Small Practices Association, said he believed two-thirds of PCTs had an

anti-singlehander policy.

He said: 'PCT tactics include saying they will find the premises unacceptable or stopping staff reimbursement.'

Government figures released last week showed one singlehanded practice in four closed in 2004 alone.

Rhetoric

'They [singlehanders] are not going to get axed. We have got 31,500 GPs at the moment. There will be more GPs than ever before, there will be more GP practices than ever before.'

Dr John Reid, March 29, 2005

Reality

·Singlehanded GP numbers plummeted by a quarter in 2004

·Two-thirds of PCTs accused of 'overt or covert' anti-singlehander policy

·NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp told Shipman Inquiry 'there is an argument' for not having singlehanded GPs

·Redbridge PCT admits it 'does not believe singlehanded practice is the best way of providing care'

By Joe Lepper

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