Doctors face a patient revolt and the threat of demonstrations outside their surgeries because of government NHS reforms, a GP leader has warned.
Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said plans to place decisions on how £80bn a year of health funding is spent in the hands of doctors could lead to patient unrest.
She said people who are denied life-extending drugs or major surgery by their GP could vent their anger at them through protests and question their high salaries.
Ms Gerada also criticised health secretary Andrew Lansley’s NHS reform proposals to give GPs the responsibility of deciding who gets treatment from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and primary care trusts in England from 2013.
“At worst, the negative impact for GPs could be patients lobbying outside their front door, saying ‘you’ve got a nice BMW car but you will not allow me to have this cytotoxic drug that will give me three more months of life’,” she told the Guardian newspaper.
“I’m concerned that my profession, GPs, will be exposed to lobbying by patients, patient groups and the pharma industry to fund or commission their bit of the service. There could be letters from MPs and patient groups and begging letters from patients.”
The new head of GPs said that making doctors “the new rationers” of NHS care could diminish patient trust and turn them into “customers” who shop around trying to get the best treatment for their ailment.
Ms Gerada, who now represents Britain’s 40,000 family doctors, added: “Patients might think that the decision made about their healthcare will be based on self-interest - GPs saving money for themselves rather than spending it on patients.”
The senior doctor also said the proposed shake-up, which involves scrapping some existing NHS bodies and introducing GP commissioning, could be the end of the NHS.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Our reforms will indeed mark a new era for the NHS - one where patients and clinicians are at the heart of the service.
“Our reforms aren’t an option, they are a necessity in order to sustain and improve our NHS.
“The reforms are far-reaching but they also build upon existing designs. We share a common goal with the RCGP that we all want patients to get the best health and care services.”