NHS should work properly, says BMA UK

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Faced with two unsatisfactory options for extended hours, the UK’s GPs have selected the proposal which they believe poses the lesser risk to patient care. Over nine in ten (92%) selected Option A over Option B – the only two alternatives the government had allowed.

The vast majority (96%), although opposed to both options, selected A because they believe it is the less worse of the two.

Option A refers to the government plan put to the GPC meeting on December 20 2007.Option B refers to the second option delivered to the BMA on December 21 after the GPC meeting. The terms of both vary from country to country. Essentially in England under Option A an average practice of three GPs would lose ?18,000 in resources, under Option B they would lose ?36,000. This money will have to be earned back by providing extended hours. However under Option B the money would have been handed to the Primary Care Trust with no guarantee that it could be retained by practices or that it could be earned back.

Over 27,000 GPs responded to the BMA poll, which comes after the government refused to accept a BMA proposal on extended hours in December 2007. The government then gave the BMA’s GP Committee (GPC) the choice of two non-negotiated options and the BMA decided to poll the profession.

The poll results show the level of anger among GPs at the way the government negotiated changes to their contract for the year 2008/09, with 98 out of every 100 GPs saying they believed the government’s method of negotiation was unacceptable.

It also shows there has been an overwhelming loss of faith among the profession in English government policy and its ability to improve the health service, with 97% of English GPs saying they have no confidence in the government’s handling of the NHS. Ninety three out of every hundred GPs say they believe the government’s policy of bringing private providers into NHS general practice will be bad for patients and the service as a whole.

Commenting on the poll results, Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GP Committee said:

“On Wednesday the Health Secretary publicly offered an olive branch to GPs, yet this poll shows the government has a long way to go if it wants to repair the damage its past behaviour has caused. The government must take heed of the strength of feeling shown in this poll. It cannot be good to have such a key part of the health workforce feeling disengaged from the way the government is handling the health service. The effect can only be corrosive and in the long term it is not a good way to get the best service for patients.

“If there is a clear message to come out of this it is that we cannot continue in this way. We want the NHS to work properly as much as everyone else, we want patients to be happy with the service they get from GPs, but it will only work if GPs feel they can trust the government not to bully and micromanage them all the time.

“Let me emphasise that a majority of GPs were and remain willing to provide extended hours surgeries. However, GPs believe they are being railroaded into an unrealistic vision of extended hours. They believe it is at the expense of improvements in clinical care and they think the offer, in its present form, means patients will not get the level and flexibility of service in extended hours that they both expect and deserve. However it is time to draw a line under this and the BMA will now work towards the practical implementation of this package.”

Source: British Medical Association, UK

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