Government reforms have left the NHS in “distress”, GP leaders have said.
The Health Act has been the cause of “the mother of all top-down reorganisations” within the health service, according to Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
The Health Act became law in March after a long battle to get it through Parliament.
Despite the act solely applying to England, Dr Gerada said all the UK’s health services are being pressured into finding ways to offer more efficient services, without disrupting the quality of patient care.
Dr Gerada, speaking at the RSGP’s annual conference in Glasgow, said that GP leaders were in “turmoil” last year as well.
She said: “In England, we were in the midst of the Health and Social Care Bill - and, despite assurances to the contrary, the NHS is experiencing the mother of all top-down reorganisations. In fact, the most radical in its 60-year history.
“A bill qualified by a thousand amendments - longer than a Tolstoy novel - rushed through at breakneck speed.
“And, as a result, our NHS is in distress. And so too, are many of us.”
She said that GPs would always ensure the system works for their patients, but would not compromise the NHS’s founding values.
Dr Gerada said every GP should raise concerns if they saw inequality and unfairness within the health system.
“We’ll show courage, just as our forefathers did as they rose to the extraordinary challenges posed by post-war austerity and the uncertainties of the new NHS,” she said.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Local doctors are the right people to lead the NHS. They will make this system work and make sure the NHS is locally led.
“They know what their local health and care issues are and will ensure patients are treated as individuals - with dignity and respect - improving services and the quality of care.”