By Ian Quinn
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham today launched what he has billed as the ‘mother of all battles’ to stop the NHS reforms outlined in the coalition Government’s health white paper, claiming they will fatally ‘compromise’ the role of GPs.
The man whose Cabinet hot seat was taken over by Andrew Lansley and who is now standing as a candidate in the Labour leadership election claimed the top-down reorganisation represented a total U-turn by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government and was not wanted by either patients or GPs.
Speaking at a meeting in Liverpool, Mr Burnham described the plans for GP consortia as ‘a postcode lottery writ large’, warning: ‘The creation of hundreds of new, untested GP groups means variable service standards, access and quality depending on where you live.’
He predicted that if the plans went ahead, patients would end up having to fight with their GP to get access to services, with GPs compromised by being both providers of services and commissioners.
‘Lobby your GP’, the Government cries. But people don’t want to have to fight for their healthcare, and GPs don’t want it either,’ he said.
‘The role of GP as champion of their patient is compromised by their role as budget-holder. It is also the case that the GP will be both a provider and commissioner, placing a major conflict of interest at the heart of the NHS.’
On the scale of the plans, including the decision to scrap all PCTs and SHAs, he said: ‘The coalition agreement appeared to acknowledge the overriding need for stability with a promise of “no further top-down reorganisations”.’
‘There has still been no explanation of why the Government’s thinking changed and the coalition agreement was torn up in the biggest and quickest U-turn in British political history.’
Mr Burnham also attacked GPs’ right to play a central role in the plans.
‘There is a large irony in the fact that the very group that refused to be a part of the NHS at the very outset, and has remained outside ever since, has now been handed practically the entire budget to spend,’ he said.
Andy Burnham: says Lansley’s plans are the biggest threat to the NHS in its history Andy Burnham: says Lansley’s plans are the biggest threat to the NHS in its history What is the real impact of GP commissioning on you, the practice and your patients?
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