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GPs demand referendum over OOH commissioning

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GPs have called for a profession-wide referendum on out-of-hours, amid simmering tensions over the Government’s plans to place full responsibility for commissioning the service in GPs’ hands.

The call comes as part of a growing backlash following the knife-edge vote at the recent LMCs conference, where GPs narrowly voted in favour of taking a ‘central role’ in commissioning out-of-hours services.

Tensions have heightened further in the wake of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s disclosure that he expects many GPs to provide out-of-hours services themselves under the plans, and one LMC is now calling on the GPC to hold a full referendum on the issue, amid fears that GPs could become ‘providers of last resort’.

Dr Gary Sweeney, a GP in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, and chairman of North Essex LMC, which is calling for the referendum, said it was vital that all GPs’ voices were heard.

In a letter to Pulse, Dr Sweeney said: ‘I am far from convinced that when the crunch comes we will not become providers of last resort. If we have responsibility for commissioning and cannot get adequate provision then we will ultimately have to take on the provision of the services.

‘In addition to this there are significant concerns about whether the funding for out of hours services will be adequate. If we are given inadequate funding to commission out of hours services the services will be inadequate.’

Dr Sweeney added: ‘The LMC’s conference is attended by a large number of extremely experienced and well-informed GPs. I do wonder at times however whether they are adequately representative of grass root GPs.

‘My LMC has therefore contacted the GPC to ask that we have a full referendum on this issue before it is adopted as policy for the GPC.’

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