Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs Committee yesterday warned Labour not to marginalise family doctors.
He was referring to Practice Based Commissioning in his keynote address to the annual conference of Local Medical Committees, the GPs’ conference.
Meldrum commented: ‘Deficits, a crude, inflexible system of Payment by Results, lack of Primary Care Trust (PCT) cooperation, or an insistence that practices take on so-called referral management schemes that are basically rationing by another name – it’s no wonder that in many areas it just isn’t happening.’
On the new electronic booking system for patient referrals, he continued: ‘As for Choose and Book – again something that might be acceptable in principle but there are just too many delays, too many problems, and coupled with last month’s admission that the whole Connecting for Health programme may now cost upward of £20 billion – even the enthusiasts are beginning to question just how much connecting, just how much health, we’re getting for our money.’
He insisted that if GPs were to implement solutions, governments throughout the UK needed to create the right environment for this to happen.
In his message to governments, Dr Meldrum said: ‘Slow down the pace of change. Don’t reorganise for reorganisation’s sake.
‘Seriously invest in GP premises. Our survey shows just how far you’ve got to go if you really want to shift work to primary care.
‘Reverse and improve your policies and funding on training and flexible careers.
‘You’ve cut back on budgets, effectively ended the hugely successful flexible careers scheme, and blocked the path for returners to return.
‘Shutting off the life-blood of general practice is not just a disgrace, it’s mad.
‘And in more general terms, let’s have a real debate about what the NHS is for and what it can do, rather than stagger, as we seem to do, from one crisis to another.’
He warned: ‘Governments, with family doctors as mere bystanders, you’ve little chance. If we’re against you – none at all.’
Early on in his speech Dr Meldrum said that any interference with the agreement on pensions would not only be seen as reneging on the new GP contract ‘but is likely to cause the profession to question any further cooperation with key government policies.
‘Not only that, I have to warn the government, all governments, because this is a UK-wide issue, that we will use every economic, legal and political weapon at our disposal to defend the new contract pension agreement.’