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RCGP warns DH plans offer only ‘the illusion of choice’

By Lilian Anekwe

The Government risks ‘destabilising the NHS and causing long-term harm to patient outcomes' by offering patients the ‘illusion of choice', according to the RCGP's response to the Department of Health's consultation on choice and control.

The College expressed its ‘grave concerns' about the consequences of allowing patients the choice of any willing provider at any practice in the country

Its consultation response, published today, warned that promising patients a choice of any provider would unfairly raise patients' expectations at a time when financial pressures meant the NHS would not be able to deliver on its promises.

RCGP honorary secretary Professor Amanda Howe said: ‘We are concerned that the emphasis on choice in this consultation may mislead patients – at a time of financial retrenchment, the reality is that there is likely to be far greater rationing of services, and hence, in some respects, a reduction in choice for many patients.'

‘It should be recognised that there can be a conflict between the right to choice of individuals and the right to a dependable service for society as a whole, and that, particularly at a time of extreme budget restraint, there may need to be more rather than less limits on individual choice – it is a concern that this paper appears to raise public expectations at precisely the time when expectations are less likely to be met.'

‘GPs, given their new role as commissioners, are particularly aware of this, and many are anticipating considerable new pressures being brought to bear on them.'

Instead, the College argued, ministers should introduce a policy to provide ‘enough willing providers', to allow GP consortia to commission for their local populations.

The response also highlights concerns about the abolition of practice boundaries, and the ‘potential for increases in health inequalities', warning: ‘There may be easier abuse of prescribing and other services, as can sometimes happen already with out-of-hours care and temporary registration.'

It concludes: ‘We urge the Government not to develop policy based on ideology but rather to develop policy based on evidence, best practice and policy.'

The RCGP has 'grace concerns' about the DH's plans for patient choice The RCGP has 'grace concerns' about the DH's plans for patient choice