Friday, May 23, 2008

Save Your Surgery

The NHS is 60 this year.

That means that my predecessors and I have been looking after your family from cradle to grave, personally and with knowledge about your health and illnesses built from the familiarity that comes with a relationship that may well span decades.

Gordon Brown wants to change that.

He doesn't want you to see the same doctor each time you need some help. He has bigger plans. He wants to introduce commercial companies to the sector.

"So what?" I hear you say. "You GPs are private, you just work for the NHS."

Perhaps. But who am I accountable to (exclusding for the moment the couple of dozen Quangos which can also make my life busier than it needs to be)? My patients. I have a GMS (General Medical Services) contract. It is a long term arrangement to provide care.

What about a commercial company? They have a responsibility to their shareholders, first and foremost. They will likely have something called an APMS (Alternative Personal Medical Services) contract. APMS contracts will likely be for 3-5 years maximum. so what happens when the contract runs out? Will you lose that service as well? Perhaps. But don't worry, some other company will be providing the service if the first one isn't. It really doesn't matter who you see.

Does it?

What about polyclinics, walk in centres and the like? The Government have said there will be up to 250 large new health centres. Great! More services! Sounds super! And what's that? It'll be up to local PCTs to decide if they need one? Wonderful! (Oh no it won't, they've all been told that this is a political "must do", whether they need it or not.)

Except the money that is being spent on those (around £1 million per centre I would guess) could be spent investing in the current service being provided by people like me, for people like you. That money has to come from somewhere. I am not reassured at all by Ministerial reassurances that they have no plans to disinvest in GPs. They think we are superfluous and that what we do could be done more cheaply by nurses, paramedics and pharmacists.

These polyclinics will have many more doctors than the current style of GP surgery, maybe as many as 25 doctors. Great! Easy access! It doesn't matter if you don't see the same person twice.

Does it?

If this concerns you as much as it does me (and I'm concerned equally as a patient of the system as I am as a GP) then please go to the website and sign the petition. Or visit your local surgery and sign.

Write to your MP and the local papers, the Nationals even. Espeically write to your local council, address it to their Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

But please do something.

When we're gone, it will be too late.

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