GPs in the West Midlands are up in arms over plans to franchise out services along the lines of fast food outlets or estate agents.
The Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (PCT) aims to shut down small GP practices and is building 24 health centres to house over 70 GPs.
The PCT has warned local family doctors that unless they move into the buildings they will bring in the private sector.
GPs have accused trust bosses of arrogance and taking patients for fools.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the plans ‘beggar belief’.
Attacking plans to bring in privateers, the BMA added that the PCT seems to have forgotten what general practice is all about.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, said: ‘Over the 600 years that there have been GPs no one has come up with this model, and people feel uncomfortable with it because they don’t think it will work.
‘And nobody has asked us whether we’re prepared to work that way.’
Buckman said the BMA was worried about private firms coming in to run the franchises, and putting shareholders before patients.
A BMA spokeswoman stressed to News Line yesterday: ‘Getting healthcare is not the same as buying a burger.
‘This idea of franchising general practice has the potential to destabilise the continuity of care that patients value so highly and could be a step nearer to the privatisation of our health service.
‘If the Heart of Birmingham PCT wants to invest in primary care, it should be investing in existing general practice which has a proven record of high quality care for local patients.’
Most of the GPs under threat are currently practising on their own and believe the current arrangements are more suitable.
Dr VJ Abrol has a surgery just round the corner from one of the new health centres due to open in February.
He said: ‘I don’t think my patients would feel these new premises to be as welcoming as my premises are.
‘This will be a crowded place.
‘There’ll be six, seven, eight doctors, and it’ll be like a supermarket, whereas my place at the moment is like a corner shop, where the atmosphere is more personal.’
He and other local GPs running single doctor surgeries have received vocal support from their patients, who said the personal touch is vital and they value their longstanding relationships with their doctors.