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Gerada: GPs must stop NHS degenerating into ‘budget airline’ service

GPs must reject ‘the language of the market' to stop the NHS from creating a gulf in healthcare between the ‘deserving and the undeserving sick', the RCGP's leader has warned in a rallying speech to RCGP Conference this morning.

In a rousing speech to a packed room of 1,700 delegates at the RCGP conference, Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair and a GP in Kennington, said pressures on GPs to replace ‘the language of caring with the language of marketing' risked fracturing the NHS into a ‘budget airline' style system where patients are denied care they can't afford.

In her opening address Dr Gerada, said that GPS must resist marketisation pressures to become ‘financial managers of care', and view patients as ‘tariffs'. She urged GPs to make sure they had the fingers on the ‘public's pulse, not the public's purse' and attacked Government for ‘shirking its responsibilities' by attempting to hand decisions on rationing of care to GPs. Click here to read the speech in full.

Dr Gerada attacked the influence of terms like ‘care pathways', ‘demand management' and slants on ‘frequent flyer patients' for promoting marketisation over care. She said the growing use of referral management centres was damaging care by taking key decisions on care out of the hands of GPs and placing a ‘hidden stranger' in the consulting room. 

In her keynote address, which drew a standing ovation from delegates, Dr Gerada said: ‘Our profession is under pressure to replace the language of caring with the language of the market.'

'We need to remind ourselves of why we entered this profession in the workplace. On good days when my son asks me about what I did, I want to be able to say I saved a life, not I saved a budget.'

‘It is turning our patients into tariffs and us into financial managers of care. We are already embracing the language of the market when we talk about things like care pathways and demand management…Referral management centres place a "hidden stranger" in the consulting room, making decisions that that should be made by a GP. Insulting terms like ‘frequent flyer' patients are used to describe people that are sick..

‘I worry we're heading towards a situation where NHS will resemble a budget airline. Seats will be limited to whoever can muscle in first'

Click here to read more from the RCGP Conference in Liverpool throughout the day, or follow events live on Twitter @pulsetoday