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Amended health bill treats GPs ‘like children’, NHS Alliance chair warns

The Government's amendments to the health bill ‘patronise' GPs, treating them ‘like children' with a ‘lack of trust', a leading supporter of GP-led commissioning has told Pulse.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, made the accusation after he gave evidence to the Commons health bill committee in which he attacked the changes as a ‘straitjacket' on commissioning.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse he also attacked the Future Forum's listening exercise as unbalanced: ‘It was basically a giant committee with many more senior managers than GPs on it and it has come out with what you would expect from that sort of group.'

He added: ‘If we want GP commissioning to succeed then commissioners must be fleet of foot, able to innovate and have the freedoms they need to make the difference they want to make. If we have everyone from clinical senates and health and wellbeing boards breathing down their necks, as well the National Commissioning Board and Monitor, then that is not going to be easy.'

Dr Dixon said that although taken individually he did not object to most of the changes to the bill, the cumulative effect was an increasingly burdensome set of restraints on GPs.

‘The language we are hearing towards GP commissioners is like learned autonomy, which is how you teach children, rather than assumed responsibility. I don't think we should be treating GPs like children, we should be treating them as the responsible adults they are. We need to stop treating GPs like children, dictating to them and constraining them with the bureaucratic mess we had before,' Dr Dixon said.

Dr Johnny Marshall, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, agreed with Dr Dixon's concerns and urged commissioners to be left as free as possible during the rest of the bill's passage through Parliament.

‘I share the concern that there is too much bureaucracy that could tie up the decision making. If it takes a lot longer [to make decisions] and stops commissioners focusing on population health and the need for prevention then it will be difficult to do the job in hand and meet the challenges we face,' he said.