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Welcome to the new dawn

By Ian Quinn

The new powers the Government has given to GPs could potentially be a poisoned chalice, says By Ian Quinn.

It may date back to a time when Adolf Hitler was busy annexing large parts of Europe but the Finsbury Health Centre is nevertheless still seen as a groundbreaking symbol of the hopes and dreams of the NHS by many patients and clinicians.

Yet the Berthold Lubetkin designed landmark is now a glaring example of the massive challenge about to face GPs as they find themselves handed responsibility for deciding what NHS frontline services should be culled.

They find themselves not just as gatekeepers of the NHS but, potentially, as its axe-wielders.

Ministers have rather carefully extricated themselves from the decision making over the future of not just this iconic building, but a series of A&E units - for now mostly in London but doubtless soon followed by others around the country - and other hospital facilities that will face the threat of closure as the £20bn plus financial crisis bites.

It was interesting - and a sign of commendable ConDem coalition loyalty - to hear both Tory health minister Simon Burns and his Lib Dem comrade, Paul Burstow, speak separately in parliament this week about GP's new found power - or as some would have it poisoned chalice.

‘It means inviting patients, GPs, clinicians and the local councils to play a fuller role in deciding what should happen next,' said Mr Burstow, in a debate on the fate of the Finsbury centre.

Whilst in almost identical terms, Mr Burns said it was important ‘GPs who deliver the services have more say and influence over what happens' when it came to plans to close the A&E at Northwick Park hospital, in Harrow.

So what will happen next? The brutal truth for GPs is that if the Government is true to its word and GPs really are in the power seat, they will have to decide whether to pull the plug on hospital A&E units and wards and health centres around the country and face the consequences when it comes to the inevitable backlash from patients.

Before the election, London was hardly full of MPs standing up to give their backing to the closure of A&Es, no matter what the evidence in support, yet ministers now expect GPs to do exactly that for them, or else come up with alternatives for a £5bn (and rising) debt crisis in the capital alone.

Before the election the BMA was marching side by side with save our NHS protestors demanding a halt to the closure of NHS services.

Welcome to the new dawn.

By Ian Quinn is news editor for Pulse

By Ian Quinn