The government’s planned expansion of the “any willing provider” is the biggest issue concerning GPs, according to the chair elect of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Speaking at the RCGP annual conference last week in Harrogate, Clare Gerada, who will lead the 40,000 member college from next month, said she most feared the expansion of market forces under the white paper but had “absolutely no doubt” GPs would rise to the challenge of commissioning.

Dr Gerada told a packed debate: “The revolution isn’t about putting GPs at the heart of commissioning, the revolution is around the any willing provider [model].

“The revolution is the vast majority of our services being put out to tender for the any willing provider, and the fact the national tariff will go and there will be a ceiling to it but probably no floor – and that means price will rear its ugly head.”

She said: “I sense this is the biggest issue we are facing and that people writing into the college are worried about.”

Dr Gerada’s comments suggest the RCGP, which has previously kept its policies largely confined to GP education and development, could in future align itself more closely with the views of unions such as the British Medical Association and Unison.

Other GPs in the audience said they also feared private corporations would get a “strangle hold” on the primary care market.

Leicestershire GP Nick Leach said: “What is the failsafe situation if we drop the ball – we’re taking this challenge at one of the hardest [financial] times that we could possibly imagine. Some of us fear the commercial ‘white knights’ will come in and ‘save the NHS’, and I don’t think it will be very safe in their hands.”

However, current RCGP chair Steve Field said the profession should be able to control the encroachment of the private sector. He said: “If we are in control, we can set the contracts or the value proposition, which means who actually does the work.”