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Will GP Reforms Undermine Trust in Family Doctors?

Many people have good feelings about their family doctor, someone who may have seen their children through childhood illness, reassured them as they faced health scares and perhaps supported them through life’s difficult times.

The tendency to form larger medical practices where you do not necessarily see the same doctor may have undermined this relationship somewhat but overall we still like our GPs.

Andrew Lansley’s reforms are designed to improve NHS care by trusting market forces to create a more efficient service. But many people are concerned, doctors and patients alike, at the potential to undermine the trust we have in our GPs.

Whereas hospital treatment is currently commissioned by primary care trusts, the proposal is that consortiums of GPs should now take over this task. That will require them to be not just good doctors but efficient accountants. It will also give them a financial interest in avoiding hospitals having to provide treatment.

One of its proponents claims that hospital doctors are already ‘over-treating’ patients. Where the evidence for this startling statement comes from is unclear. Many patients enduring long waits for the next stage of their treatment may be surprised to hear this.

Our family doctors are already in fact private business who in effect charge the NHS for their services. The proposed reforms will encourage them to save NHS money on care and use it to boost their incomes instead. Our doctors are professionals who are by and large highly committed to care of their patients. But the proposals will give them a very strong incentive to prefer profit to care.

Quite how this will benefit patients is difficult to imagine. It's likely to result in poorer care, less chance of treatment, wealthier GPs and an erosion of the trust we have in our beloved family doctors.

Paul Sankey is a Principal Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers.  

If you or a member of your family suffered as a result of medical or clinical negligence, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online. We'll be happy to help.