There is often a lot of misunderstanding in the public about exactly what GPs do. Who do they work for? Who do they report to? Who they are accountable to?
On top of that, there is no doubt that depending on the GP you have or indeed where you live, will depend on the quality of the care you receive. When you add into the mix cuts to the health budget, you have a potentially toxic mix which can do serious harm to the well-being of the NHS and its patients.
With this in mind, you may not be aware that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has ordered the Chief Inspector of General Practice to review GP services across the country and his report is due to be published soon.
This is very interesting but demonstrates the danger the Tory led government’s reforms are having on the NHS.
Why do I say this?
It’s been obvious for years that improvements have been needed in quality control from GP surgeries. In Coventry, you have some outstanding practices delivering modern state of the art care with space age equipment. But, you also have too many single handed GPs working out of turn of the last century premises who are fiercely independent and cynical about change.
So, what can be done about it?
It is a difficult issue because GPs are not employees of the NHS. They are businesses. What they actually do is merely run services on behalf of the NHS. Whilst I would love to see all GPs contracted centrally to the NHS, the system is virtually as it was (with some tweaks) when Aneurin Bevan set it up. The BMA were not happy about the whole arrangement at the time and so to quote Bevan, he ‘had to stuff their mouths with gold” to get them to cooperate. The lingering thought is that this attitude still exists in some quarters today.
That is not an argument to pay any amount again but it is an argument to say that with radical and fast paced change at a time of massive cuts in the service, this will lead to a diminution of service levels and leave patients vulnerable and at risk. With GPs in the form of Clinical Commissioning Groups controlling 60% of the overall NHS budget, they are in a very strong negotiating position to put it mildly. The patient will be in danger of losing out.
I believe we need to make sure GPs are employees of the NHS. They would then be accountable to the tax payer and we would have some control.
Labour must continue our fight as a party to help support and if needs be, save the NHS again.