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Embattled Lansley rallies GP leaders ahead of health bill



By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Health secretary Andrew Lansley has held a major meeting with nearly 100 GP leaders from across the country, telling them it is down to them to lead his sweeping reforms to the NHS.

In a rallying of the troops before the forthcoming launch of his new health bill, the health secretary yesterday urged delegates to take the initiative in pushing forward with his reforms.

Mr Lansley also strongly hinted that the new health bill, due in the next two weeks, would be intentionally light on regulation and detail to allow GPs maximum freedom to carve out new ways of working.

The meeting – held at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement in Warwickshire – included senior BMA figures and many heads of the new commissioning pathfinder organisations.

The meeting came amid renewed criticism of the pace and scale of the reforms, with an open letter to the BMJ signed by more than 100 GPs and other doctors attacking the BMA’s policy of ‘critical engagement’ with the Government.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, who was at the event, said: ‘The message was fairly simple – he wants the profession to lead this, not just respond.’

‘We need to be pragmatic and we need to address questions and concerns because there are some unanswered questions but the overriding message was that this won’t work if we’re not engaged.’

Dr Amit Bhargava, a GP in Crawley, who was one of a raft of GP pathfinder leaders at the event, said: ‘The whole tone of Mr Lansley’s speech was that it was down to GP to leads these reforms, rather than reforms being imposed on us by the Government.’

‘It was a very positive event aimed at producing GP leaders who are fit for purpose. Mr Lansley was very insistent that the DH would give us the support we need.’

The NHS Alliance, the National Association of Primary Care and the RCGP were also represented at the meeting. The NAPC also issued a statement yesterday attacking the letter in the BMJ, claiming it did not reflect the true sentiments of GPs.

Chief executive Mike Ramsden said: ‘The strength of feeling it indicates about the proposed reforms is not supported in equal measure by reasoned argument.’

He added: ‘Already, 25% of the population is covered by pathfinder commissioning consortia, and another tranche of pathfinders will be announced very shortly. Such is the enthusiasm for the policy underpinning the reforms, as is clearly evident from these early applicant GP commissioning consortia.’

‘There has been no pressure on practices to apply to become early adopters, so it is quite wrong to imply that GPs oppose the reforms.’

Andrew Lansley: bidding to rally the troops in speech to GP leaders Andrew Lansley: bidding to rally the troops in speech to GP leaders Protect the future of your practice today

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