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Health bill changes fail to win over GPs, RCGP survey finds

Exclusive The Government's high profile changes to the health bill have failed to reverse majority GP opposition to the reforms, with over half of GPs still opposed to their ‘general direction', a new RCGP poll has revealed.

The poll of more than 500 GPs is the first gauge of RCGP members' reaction to revisions to the Government's revision of the NHS reforms, announced last month following the publication of the NHS Future Forum report.


The survey findings, obtained exclusively by Pulse, reveal high levels of GP dissatisfaction with the revised reforms and reveal fears that they will fail to improve the quality and cost of care, and see GPs strangled by red tape.

The new RCGP poll found 85% of GPs had not been ‘reassured' by the Government's revisions. Almost half of GPs ‘disagreed' or ‘strongly disagreed' that the revised model of clinical commissioning groups would improve patient care. Meanwhile, 60% said they did not want to be involved on a commissioning group board.

One in five GPs (20%) said they ‘strongly oppose' the direction of the Government reforms, while a further 30% ‘oppose' the reforms. A quarter of GPs (25%) said they support the aims of the reforms, while only 4% lent their ‘strong support' to the bill.

The findings highlight the failure of the revised reforms to win over GPs – with approval up just 6% from an RCGP poll carried out in February.

Both the new poll and February's survey found that most GPs rejected suggestions the reforms would improve cost effective care, lead to a more integrated NHS, or improve relations between GPs and consultants.

In a blow to Government efforts to allay fears of NHS privatisation by watering down the role of Monitor, almost 80% of GPs agreed that the revised bill will see increased involvement of the private sector in NHS care. More than two-thirds of GPs rejected suggestions that the revised reforms would reduce bureaucracy in the NHS. Earlier this month Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, warned that the NHS reforms would lead to a ‘massive increase' in bureaucracy.

Dr Gerada said of the findings: ‘The survey is a snapshot but it shows that GPs still need a lot of convincing over these reforms. Unpicking the data, GPs don't think this bill is going to create a patient-led NHS, they don't think it's going to increase autonomy, they don't think it's going to improve patient care and they don't think it's going to reduce health inequalities.'

Dr Paul Hobday, a GP in Maidstone, Kent, and a fierce critic of the reforms, said that he was not surprised GPs had ‘seen through the publicity stunt' of the Government's amendments and urged the RCGP to act on its members views and back calls to scrap the bill.

‘The bill should be scrapped. It is a complete joke now, the amendments just turned it into a dog's breakfast. I know the RCGP are in a delicate position, they're not supposed to be a political force, but given these survey findings I hope they have the confidence to back the BMA's call to get the Government to scrap this bill and get back to the drawing board.'

Dr Johnny Marshall, NAPC chair and a GP in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, defended the reforms, claiming that despite fears over increased bureaucracy GPs were convinced of the health bill's benefits.

He said: ‘Since the political response to the Future Forum report I have been aware of some concerns over the additional layers of bureaucracy that might creep in with clinical senates and the likes.'

‘Despite that, the GPs I have spoken to are convinced that clinical commissioning is absolutely the right direction of travel to get the best services locally and are getting on with making it work.'