Sunday, 12 June 2011

Planned NHS Reforms Could Cause GP Exodus

Dr Buckman says the survey shows GP's concerns on reforms

By Ben Aulakh

More than half of GPs who are planning to retire in the next two years say NHS reforms are a major reason for them leaving the profession, according to a survey from the British Medical Association.

The BMA survey, which asked GPs about their working practices, as well as current government health policy, was sent to every practitioner in the UK in April.

More than 18, 000 doctors responded, making it the most significant survey of GPs in recent years, and showing the strength of feeling among them about proposed NHS reforms.

Around 71 per cent of respondents said that age was the commonest reason for them retiring; however 56 per cent of doctors cited proposed changes to the National Health Service as the biggest reason for them leaving.

The results suggests that in the next two years, out of a total of around  6,700 GPs from across the UK who plan to retire, close to 3,700 will be leaving because of the controversial reforms.

Under current proposals, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley plans to take the provision of healthcare away from Primary Care Trust’s, and hand control over to consortia’s of GPs. 

Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee said, “These results show that GPs have significant concerns about the government’s NHS reform plans as they stand.

“I’m not surprised to find that two thirds of GPs are worried about how the new consortia will operate, when you consider the laissez-faire approach that the government has taken to planning the new arrangements so far.”

“Staff are leaving Primary Care Trusts in droves and those that are left are spending their time and energy creating PCT “clusters” instead, without any certainty about their long-term future.”

A further 1, 345 family doctors also plan to leave general practice principally because of the Coalitions proposals.

Many of the doctors who took part in the research also stated their beliefs that hospital consultants and public health doctors should be more closely involved in the consortia.

Three-quarters of GPs, around 76 per cent also don’t believe the new consortia should be paid performance-related bonuses for commissioning healthcare.

More than seven in ten are also concerned about the potential conflicts of interest within the Health Bill, in terms of the impact this could have on their relationship with patients and because of their role as commissioners as well as providers of healthcare.

Also, 71 per cent feel the GP clusters will not be appropriately skilled or supported to run the NHS effectively

Dr Buckman added, “In many areas, GPs are being left to get on with it while many of the key questions, such as how groups will be determined geographically, are left unanswered.

“If these reforms are to stand any chance of being successful, the government must carry health professionals with them while reassuring patients that their GP continues to place their needs at the heart of any clinical decisions.”

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