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Labour should be ‘honest’ about plans for ‘another NHS reorganisation’, says GPC

GP leaders have called on the Labour party to be ‘honest’ about plans for ‘another NHS reorganisation’ ahead of next year’s general election.

The GPC said the Labour party should immediately seek to involve GPs in talks about future models of delivering general practice, after shadow health secretary Andy Burnham repeated his calls for GPs to work as salaried employees in a fringe event at the Labour conference in Manchester yesterday.

Mr Burnham is due to spell out Labour’s plans for the NHS in his main speech to the conference tomorrow, but revealed that the NHS will be the ‘key election issue’.

Speaking in a debate organised by the Nuffield Trust, Mr Burnham repeated plans to combine health and social care budgets and hand them to the health and wellbeing boards, while referring to the current Government’s NHS reforms as ‘the reorganisation that never ends… because it is such a bloody mess’.

He further repeated repeated his wish, expressed in an exclusive interview with Pulse earlier this month, for GPs to work as salaried employees of integrated care organisations. He said he was ‘not proposing the abolition of independent contractors’ but added that he doesn’t ‘think it helps to build care around the person and that is why we must explore these models’ which he said could ‘sit alongside’ each other.

He said ‘younger GPs’ may find it more attractive to work as salaried doctors in these integrated care organisations, which would care for the ‘most vulnerable’ patients in society, while the independent contract GPs continued to provide the ‘episodic care’ to the rest of the population.

Mr Burnham added: ‘I can see a model where the GP sits at the centre of a team, an integrated team with the physio, the district nurse, and is actively day-to-day monitoring the care of the frail elderly population, whereas there still will be a call for the more episodic use of general practice, the coughs and colds, the usual stuff. I think we should embrace those different futures and be open about that.’

However, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Having heard Andy Burnham’s remarks I think it is clear that what he is talking about are some significant organisation changes. He is talking about merging the CCG budget and social care budget into one and merging organisations into one. This is reorganisation. He is talking about integrated care organisations bringing together GPs and other healthcare professionals, and creating a salaried GP workforce. That to me is clearly a reorganisation and a restructuring.

‘What is important, what the public should not be fed, is the idea that it is not a reorganisation when in fact it is clear that the policies are spelling out a major reorganisation. And unlike previous restructuring, what really must happen at the earliest possible stage is to involve the profession. I do believe that proposals to dilute, or rather to get rid of the independent contractor status, are misguided – the arguments are misguided and do not understand the absolute bargain that GPs provide as a result of an independent contractor status model.’