Over a million people have signed a BMA petition calling on the government to support existing GP practices and urging it to stop encouraging large commercial companies into primary care in England.
The number of signatures, which were gathered over a three-week period, shows the huge concern among patients, the public and doctors over government plans for general practice and the impact creeping commercialisation could have on the NHS.
In his speech to today's Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference, Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee, will tell GPs that when the petition is handed in to Downing Street "it will deliver a stark message to the Prime Minister."
As part of Lord Darzi's review of the NHS, every primary care trust in England has been told it has to have a new GP-led health centre (often referred to as a polyclinic). The private sector is being encouraged to bid to run these new centres and doctors do not believe the bidding process allows for anything like a level playing field. Patients and GPs fear large commercial firms may put the wishes of shareholders before the needs of patients.
The BMA also believes the government's plans could affect continuity of care because the contracts are being offered on a short-term basis, making it difficult to plan for long-term health services and potentially leading to a much higher turnover of GPs within a practice.
Dr Buckman will also tell the conference:
"My message to Gordon Brown is this: Whatever you think of GPs, take note of what your electorate thinks. Work with us to improve the service, not against us, and ignore at your peril the wishes of the most important people in the NHS – the patients."
Do you agree with the BMA? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"I agree, where I live the PCT is attempting to create a large surgery that is unsuitable and unnecessary. We have 'consultations' arranged for patients to attend, but will anyone listen to their wishes?" - Julia Winn, Holland-on-Sea
"I am sick of government interference with our health service. Lets face it - how many of them use the NHS? Leave it to those that know best - UK health workers and GPs." - Chris Forest-Potter, Leicester
"Yes I do. In my local area a few GP surgeries have been taken over by two private companies. The practice nurse at my GPs left to work in one of them. A big salary was offered." - Samuel Kaleev, SE London
"Yes, in fact I signed the petition." - Rahala Din, East London
"Yes I agree. The government will ruin general practice – something else to ruin!" - Caroline Rice, Northwood
"Totally agree with BMA. Patients will be lured away from their general practice by promises of extra services, not realising that their care will be compromised. The funding for the polyclinics could be utilised for those extra services to be provided by established GP practices." - Anita Hewson, Liverpool
"Yes I do." - Dawn McGrath, Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire
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