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Failure to bail out general practice represents ‘historical contempt’, says outgoing GP leader

Outgoing NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon has criticised the Government for ’underspending’ the GP budget and using it ‘to cover financial deficits in secondary care’.

Speaking at his retirement reception in London earlier this week, Dr Dixon said that letting GP practices go bust while paying off hospital debt represented ‘a historical contempt for primary care’.

Dr Dixon, a GP in Cullompton, Devon, is retiring after 18 years as chair of NHS Alliance, being replaced by co-chairs Dr Mark Spencer, a GP in Lancashire, and Heather Henry, a nurse based in the North-West of England.

Dr Dixon said: ‘It is utterly unbelievable that NHS England’s primary care budget should have been underspent, and used to cover financial deficits in secondary care.

‘General Practice has already carried a disproportionate share of austerity at a time when it has been expected to extend its role. Hospital deficits were eventually paid off. You can’t have deficits in general practice; practices simply go bust… This represents a deep, continuing and historical contempt for primary care.’

Despite this criticism, health secretary Jeremy Hunt took the opportunity to praise Dr Dixon’s long tenure as a GP leader at the event.

Referring to the Five Year Forward View – the blueprint for NHS reform unveiled by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens last year – Mr Hunt said: ’People call it the Stevens plan, but a lot of it is the Dixon plan. It’s the NHS Alliance plan, it’s the plan to put GPs at the heart of the transformation that we now want to happen.’