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Campaign Of The Week Beware of the Tory government’s new GP practice contracts

‘Primary Care Network’ contracts are being forced on to general practitioners on the quiet, with no consultation with the public or even the doctors themselves. PETER LAZENBY reports

ACROSS the length and breadth of England there are dozens of localised campaign groups with the same name — 999 Call for the NHS.

The campaign was born in 2014 when a group of marchers set off to follow the route of the Jarrow Marchers who in 1936 marched from north-east England to London to call for relief from the widespread unemployment and grinding poverty which followed the collapse in the capitalist system known as “the slump.”

The 2014 marchers, who became known as the “Darlo Mums” after the north-east town of Darlington, had a different purpose: to save the National Health Service from the cuts, privatisation and dismantling being imposed by the Tories.

Of course, as in 1936, the Tories took no notice of the marchers’ concerns, and the privatisation and dismantling of the NHS continues apace today.

Its latest phase involves forcing new Primary Care Network contracts on to general practitioners.

It is being done quietly, stealthily, with no consultation with the public or even the general practitioners themselves. 999 Call for the NHS groups are resisting it.

Primary Care Networks group several GP practices together with acute, mental health, community health, social care and outpatients services, along with companies, volunteers and charities.

They each serve 30,000 to 50,000 patients and operate a system of so-called integrated care imported from the US healthcare company, Kaiser Permanente.

The effects of this transformation will be shocking. It make GPs soak up some of the work which can’t be done in hospitals because of cuts to hospital budgets.

There will be less access to GPs and patients will be seen by less qualified health care professionals

Mysteriously, the plan has the support of the British Medical Association — the doctors’ union.

The government says the new system will mean more money for GPs’ budgets, but only if GPs restrict patients’ access to NHS and social care services.

It is also conditional on GP practices employing less skilled auxiliary healthcare staff.

It won’t solve the general practice crisis, which arose after successive governments’ spending cuts led to GPs’ workloads becoming so overwhelming that over 1,000 have quit over the last three years.

Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS is one of the dozens of 999 campaign groups trying the make the public aware of the forthcoming calamity.

The group, which is based on and around the towns of Huddersfield and Halifax in West Yorkshire, is running a letter-writing campaign urging GPs not to sign the new contracts.

The group runs stalls, meetings and hands out leaflets, hoping the public and the GPs will wake up before it’s too late.

Jenny Shepherd, chair of the group, said: “This Primary Care Network contract is basically going to make it impossible for most patients to see their own named GP.

“GPs will only see patients with the most complicated illnesses. And they will have to spend a lot of time supervising less qualified staff who will have most of the contact with patients. This really is going to damage patient care.

“It’s not going to be good for GPs either. But the government’s quango, NHS England, is holding a gun to their heads. Because if GP practices don’t take on the contract, they will be starved of funding.”

Chrissie Parker, a campaigner with the group, said: “If these contracts are signed, I fear there will be less access to GPs and patients will be seen by less qualified healthcare professionals.

“GP referrals to hospitals for many treatments will also be a thing of the past. GPs have a duty of care and their care is now being restricted.”

Every NHS area of England has a 999 Call for the NHS campaign group. The national website is at 999callfornhs.org.uk.

If you would like your campaign to be featured as Campaign of the Week, visit mstar.link/campaign and fill in the online form.

 

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