CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph
GPs are threatening to break away from NHS and calling on their union to help them set up a “private alternative model,” in a vote next week, The Telegraph reports.
The motion, due to be debated by a national conference of doctors next week, follows repeated claims by the British Medical Association that the health service is at breaking point.
The proposal calls on the union to support GPs who want to charge patients fees for their services, instead of being funded by the NHS.
Patients’ groups last night said the prospect was “frightening” and said taxpayers should not be expected to “pay twice over” for healthcare, having already funded the training of such doctors .
A motion drawn up by Bedfordshire local medical committee (LMC) calls on the BMA’s GP committee (GPC) to support privatisation of services.
“Given that a number of GPs genuinely feel that they can no longer operate within the NHS, conference calls on GPC England to urgently look at how these GPs can be supported to operate within a private, alternative model,” the agenda reveals.
The GP leaders will gather in London on Friday, November 10 to vote on national policies for the BMA’s GP committe.
Other motions propose making it easier for surgeries to refuse to take patients, and negotiating “golden handcuffs” deals for GPs aged 55 and over.
Another, drawn up by Norfolk and Waveney committee, calls for the reinstatement of a system of long-service payments to older doctors “to stem the rise of early retirements”.
Other motions, disclosed in Pulse magazine, warn of a shortage of doctors and describe NHS England’s five-year plan for general practice as “woefully inadequate” and “pointless”.
Herefordshire LMC suggests the health services’ current inability to retain GPs is the “greatest threat to the NHS since its inception”.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said she was appalled by proposals for GPs to set up private models of care.
“We have already paid for the health service, we should not be being expected to pay twice,” she said.
“It is very frightening indeed. I absolutely hope this vote doesn’t go through; most elderly patients can’t afford to go private and wouldn’t know where to go for help if their local GP wasn’t there for them,” she added.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice has been the bedrock of the NHS for nearly 70 years and family doctors are doing their utmost to ensure it stays that way, free at the point of need for all of our patients.
“The current pressures on GPs are immense and we’re going through the toughest of times, but to consider privatisation of general practice in any shape or form is not the answer,” she said.
“We can understand the desperation of GPs, but we must stick together to overcome our current challenges.”
Earlier this year health officials said shortages of doctors are being fuelled by the fact GPs are increasingly working part-time.
The average GP now works a four day week, compared with four and a half days in 2009, NHS data shows.
A BMA spokesman said: “General practice is under unsustainable and mounting pressure from rising demand, contracting budgets and staff shortages.
“The BMA has consistently called for the government to properly fund general practice so that patients can receive the best possible care, free at the point of delivery.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “GPs are the bedrock of our health service, but we know that they face real pressure as demand increases and our population ages.
“We have recently set out plans to provide a sustainable solution to the unpredictable costs of indemnity and are investing an extra £2.4bn by 2020 in GP surgeries; we want to work with them to overcome these and other challenges and give NHS patients the high-quality care they deserve.”