Care not cost should be the driving force in patient and doctor relationships, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said today.
Dr Clare Gerada warned the profession is under pressure to "replace the language of caring with the language of the market" and said that patients are not commodities to be bought and sold.
In her opening speech to 1,500 GPs at the fifth RCGP annual national conference in Liverpool today, she urged health professionals not to lose sight of why they entered the profession - to care for the patient as a person.
An NHS Bill drawn up by the coalition Government has been widely criticised by the medical profession despite a "listening exercise" and series of concessions on the plans.
Dr Gerada said: "In this brave new cost-driven, competitive, managed-care world, I worry about the effect that the language of marketing is having on our clinical relationships.
"It's changing the precious relationship between clinician and patient into a crudely costed financial procedure."
While welcoming the role of GPs in commissioning, Dr Gerada said that the commissioning agenda must not sacrifice long-term benefits for patients in favour of short-term savings.
"People often tell me that GPs make good commissioners because of the population-focus we bring to care," she said.
"After all as a profession we see 300 million patients per year. If anyone can be said to have their finger on the pulse of the nation, surely it's us.
"It's an argument I've supported for decades. But we must tread carefully in this brave new world and do everything in our power to make sure it's the public's pulse we have our fingers on... not the public's purse!"
Dr Gerada continued: "It's the Government's job to decide how much we invest in healthcare - and what services the NHS should provide. Governments should have ultimate responsibility for decisions about rationing healthcare, not GPs.
"In times of austerity, we need to come together so that we can collaborate, cooperate and innovate... not compete against each other.
"I am convinced that there are enough of us to create a revolution in healthcare. Not a revolution that the Government is talking about in the Bill - in structures, payments and competition. But a revolution in values - one that will provide excellent care to our patients."
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is due to address the conference on Saturday.
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