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GPs blocking choice

3rd July 2008

Health minister Ben Bradshaw has accused GPs of blocking patient choice in some areas.

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Mr Bradshaw said he felt that some family doctors were operating a “gentleman’s agreement” system where they promised not to accept the patients of other doctors.

The British Medical Association rejected the comments as “absolute nonsense”, though they did also make it clear that GPs were not going to compete for patients.

The comments, which threaten to open up a new rift between doctors and the Government following the recent clashes over extended opening hours and polyclinics, come after Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS cleared the way for more patient choice.

GPs are currently paid up to £125 for each patient depending on the complexity of their requirements.

But Mr Bradshaw wants to see this increased but with the lump sum doctors receive in their contracts for this being phased out because he felt that aspect “dampened the incentive” to attract new patients.

He felt that increased choice in GP care would raise standards but added: “There is no doubt there are some areas where gentlemen’s agreements operate that mitigate against lists being open to new patients and therefore work against real patient choice.”

The BMA is currently engaged in talks with the government over funding.

Chairman of the BMA GP committee Laurence Buckman said he was not opposed to phasing out the lump sum and putting more weight on the size of GP lists.

But he added: “It is absolute nonsense to suggest there are gentlemen’s agreements.”

 

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