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GPs vote to denounce government’s “policy of creeping privatisation”

18 June 2008

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GPs voted in overwhelming opposition to the commercialisation of general practice at last week’s Local Medical Committee (LMC) Annual Conference.

GPs also voted unanimously in favour of a motion stating it is “misleading” to equate independent contractor general practice with the “corporate privatisation of primary care”, and that GPs should be equipped to compete effectively for Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) practices.

In an angry address to the conference, Dr Elizabeth Robinson, a GP from Camden, accused private company UnitedHealth Europe of decreasing the length of practice consultations in order to see more patients, and preventing doctors from receiving training to cut costs.

“This criminal nonsense needs exposure,” she said.

Delegates voted unanimously in favour of a motion stating that the government’s policy of “creeping privatisation of general practice” will threaten patient care and the existing model of general practice, and urged the GPs’ Committee (GPC) to “campaign vigorously” to protect general practice.

Delegates also voted to demand that, when GP services are offered for tender, “cherry picking” of patient services should not be allowed, the quality of services should be the prime consideration and private corporations should not be allowed to vary the terms and conditions of their contract once signed.

Dr Andy Withers, from Bradford and Airedale LMC, called on the GPC to equip GPs to compete effectively for APMS practices. “We need to ensure a level playing field by preparing practices to compete for these contracts,” he said.

Conference agreed that GPs’ independent contractor status did not mean any equivalence with private organisations, as is sometimes claimed in defence of private involvement in primary care.

“We must dispel this myth unequivocally,” said GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul. “This is semantic nonsense. GPs are a world apart from corporate business.”