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GPs intervene to emphasise ‘enormous benefits’ of NHS reforms

By Alisdair Stirling

GP consortium chairs have launched a fightback against critics of the NHS reforms in a letter to a national newspaper, saying they will benefit the weakest in society and represent evolution not revolution.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, 42 GPs representing over 1,000 practices in shadow commissioning consortia say they 'wholeheartedly support' moves to scrap PCTs and SHAs.

In the response to the 'misinformed criticisms' that have caused health secretary Andrew Lansley's plans to be halted, they argue that the reforms are a 'natural conclusion of the GP commissioning role that began with fundholding in the 1990s and more recently of the previous Government's agenda of GP polysystems and practice-based commissioning.'

The letter - covered widely in the media this morning - argues that the reforms will co-ordinate care and will benefit patients.

'One of the most important elements of the reforms is that they are the first significant attempt to co-ordinate all aspects of care – primary, secondary, community and social – into a coherent and seamless whole, through the Health and Wellbeing Board partnerships.'

'If successful, there will be enormous benefits to the most elderly, infirm and vulnerable people in our community, whose care is often currently too fragmented,' the letter reads.

The letter - signed by Dr Jonathan Munday, chair of Victoria Commissioning Consortium and a GP in Westminster, and others - also attempts to rebut criticism that GPs 'are not skilled enough to commission care.'

'Our role as GPs will be to offer strategy, direction, clinical insight and local knowledge to the commissioning of healthcare in our areas. GP consortia will continue working closely with colleagues from hospitals, community trusts and the voluntary sector to design the best care for their areas,' it reads.

The Guardian reports this morning that Dr Munday, a former Conservative Mayor of Kensington, urged colleagues to sign the letter without seeking approval from their consortium boards, saying they had the most to lose if the Government left GP consortia as 'sub-committees of retained PCT clusters'.

'I am now getting seriously worried that the political pressure on Lansley is such that the Government may abort GP commissioning entirely or, almost worse, may so water it down and constrain it that GP consortia will have the worst of all worlds: a lot of effort, political responsibility for any cuts but no ability to wrest initiatives or make needed reforms,' he is quoted as saying to GP colleagues.

Scroll down to download and read a copy of the letter.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley is under fire Read the full letter here

To read the full letter from the 42 consortium chairs, please click here.