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GP support for Conservatives plummets as party loses trust over health policies

Exclusive GP faith in the Conservative Party has plummeted over their health reforms, with only 12% of the profession saying it is the political party they trust most to manage the NHS.

The Pulse survey of 364 GPs showed Labour was the most trusted on the NHS, with 28% backing the party on managing the health service. Only 12% backed the Conservative Party, 8% each backed the Green Party and the Lib Dems, and 6% said UKIP.

By far the largest percentage (35%) thought no party was trustworthy when it came to managing the NHS.

This margin was also translated to GP voting intentions, with 26% saying they would vote for Labour in the next election and 19% of GPs saying they would vote Conservative.

On the eve of local elections across the country, around 10% of GPs plan to vote for each of the Green Party and UKIP. Some 8% said they would vote Liberal Democrat and 4% for a range of other parties including the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, the British National Party, the National Health Action Party and the Monster Raving Loony Party.

The 255 GP partners who responded were more distrustful of all the main political parties than their colleagues as a whole, with 36% saying they would not trust any party with the NHS. The 47 salaried GPs who responded were more likely to vote Labour (44%) and to trust Labour with the health service (42%) than were other types of GPs.

A Pulse poll in 2009 found fewer than one in ten GPs now planned to vote Labour in the next general election, with support for the Conservatives at more than 50%. A similar poll in 2010 found just 15% would vote Labour, and only 17% prefer Labour’s health policies, compared with 53% who planned to vote Conservative and 30% who supported their health policies.

Which party do you trust most in managing the NHS?

Labour 28%              

Conservative 12%            

UKIP 6%            

Greens 8%           

Lib Dems 8%         

Other 3%      

None 35%

Source: Pulse survey of 364 GPs

Dr Robert Morley, executive director Birmingham LMC, said: ‘Trust in this Government has fallen because it is the current Government and it has shafted us. Just like the previous Government shafted us, and the just like the next Government will shaft us.

‘It is to do with everything they are doing, through the GP contract, the NHS reforms… they are politicians and they act to their own ends. We have a job to do which is to look after patients, while their job is to get votes.’

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard, a GP in Swindon, illustrated GPs’ disillusionment’ with the political reforms of the NHS.

He said: ‘Politicians don’t run the NHS, they meddle in it. The last politician who tried to do something useful with the NHS was Andrew Lansley and look where that got him.’

Dr Paul Charlson, a GP and former chair and now head of policy for Conservative Health, said he was ‘not desperately surprised’ that GPs were cynical over the Government’s handling of the NHS.

He said: ‘I find it a bit disingenuous and disappointing that we spent a lot of time thinking about how to get GPs involved in running the NHS and so many of them don’t appear to be up for it.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair said: ‘The changes in the past two to three years build on those introduced under previous governments, so all parties are complicit in the changes. And because of the coalition, those GPs who hoped the Liberal Democrats would bring a new take on things have not been proved right.’

Dr Catti Moss, a GP in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, said she would vote Green in the next election. She said: ‘The problem is I’ve been a GP since 1982 and I’ve worked through five major reorganisations. All of us can see the problems but the constant temptation to reorganise gets us into a cycle where the system gets changed but people don’t benefit.’

Jamie Reed, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: ‘This is a damning indictment of David Cameron’s NHS betrayal.

‘GPs repeatedly warned the Prime Minister over his chaotic NHS re-organisation and decision to force GP commissioners to put every contract out to tender, but he ploughed on regardless. Doctors are now abandoning him in droves – showing a complete lack of faith in the Tories’ handling of the NHS.’

A Conservative spokesperson said: ‘The Conservative Party is putting patients at the heart of the NHS, working to ensure that the quality of care is as good as the quality treatment, and protecting the NHS budget.’