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Government ‘must do more to win round GPs’ says Dorrell

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell has warned of the danger of a damaging battle exploding between the Department of Health and GPs over the health bill and urged the Government to do more to win GPs round.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, Mr Dorrell, who as chair of the health committee has criticised the scale and pace of health secretary Andrew Lansley's reforms, also urged the BMA against launching an all out campaign against the proposals.

He spoke in the week that the BMA Council hardened its position on the reforms, calling for a halt to implementation before the health bill is debated in parliament and announcing it will hold a Special Representative Meeting to debate the NHS reforms in England in March.

The Tory veteran said: ‘The losers if the health service becomes a political battlefield will be patients and I'd make the point again that patients' demands for health are rising day by day.'

Mr Dorrell said it was important for the Government to increase support for its plans, warning that the growing dispute was threatening the chances of the NHS being able to meet its £20bn financial savings target.

‘It has to be the Government's objective to build support among GPs and the wider clinical community,' he said.

The health committee chair accused Mr Lansley or making mistakes in the handling of the proposals, claiming he had reneged on coalition plans for its reforms to include PCTs being reformed rather than abolished.

‘I thought we were looking to develop existing institutions rather than starting again, and that appeared to be confirmed in the coalition agreement,' he said

‘Then in July that approach was changed. That came as a surprise.'

The health committee's report on the Government's commissioning plans accused the Government of failing to plan for the transition and of having no ‘credible' proposals to mitigate the threat to the savings challenge, describing the proposals as a ‘high risk strategy' .

‘I naturally prefer evolutions and would seek to avoid this kind of discontinuity. The Government has decided it wants to have this kind of discontinuity.'

However, Mr Dorrell said it was now too late to turn back the tide, claiming that rather than bidding to give PCTs a stay of execution, the focus should be on making GP consortia work.

‘I know of very few GPs who are against he principle of clinical engagement in commissioning,' he said.' That's the basic foundation stone that this policy is built on.'

Video interview with Stephen Dorrell

Stephen Dorrell: warning of damaging battle between Government and GPs