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BMA GP chief: Prime minister NHS changes 'welcome'

British Medical Association GP representatives have voted to reserve judgement on the government’s NHS reform until full details of its U-turn are clear.

The Local Medical Committees conference today voted down a motion declaring “GPs should no longer co-operate with introducing the [NHS reform] changes”.

BMA GP Committee chair Laurence Buckman urged delegates to refrain from taking such action until details of the new proposals are clear.

He said: “The government say they are listening – they appear to have listened. We have been asking for years to put doctors in the seat of the commissioning process.

“PCTs are imploding around us now. Nascent consortia are already hard at work. Withdrawing at this stage in the middle of the listening exercise would seem to make the situation worse.” However, Dr Buckman said such moves may be required later if changes are not satisfactory.

He said: “The ‘listening exercise’ is on – it is not the time for these things. The time may come when this is necessary.”

Referring to David Cameron’s speech on Monday, Dr Buckman said the prime minister was “making encouraging noises”. He welcomed his move towards requiring consortia to involve “all relevant clinicians” and to a “realistic timetable to hand overall responsibility” to the groups.

However, in relation to Mr Cameron’s proposal to give Monitor a duty to “support integration”, Mr Buckman said: “The prime minister announced a welcome change to Monitor’s role but he still has not taken away the duty to promote competition. Cooperation is what would make the NHS better for patients.”

However Mr Buckman also warned against what he said was the intention of some “NHS chief executives” to achieve integration through foundation trusts providing GP services.

He said: “Some NHS managers go further and say integration would be desirable. It depends what type of integration.

“Secondary care already sucks in the majority of funding. Shared working and pathways - yes. But the vista suggested by some hospital chief executives that GPs should be employed by NHS foundation trusts: No.”

The NHS Future Forum group which is reviewing reform plans as part of the government’s “listening exercise” is due to report early next week.

Ministers are this week negotiating a response to its recommendations which they plan to follow shortly afterwards. It will be followed later by a more detailed second “command paper” to Parliament, and amendments to the Health Bill.

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