GP of future sought by BMA

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH Medical Association is to launch a search for a new kind of family doctor for the next millennium.

The association will consult with GPs, academics, patients and politicians to identify the strengths and weaknesses of general practice and the threats to its future. Proposals for change will be set out in a White Paper next year.

The move, announced at the BMA's annual conference yesterday, is a response to perceived threats to general practice from the development of the nationwide telephone advice service, NHS Direct, which is run by nurses, and the introduction of walk-in medical centres where patients can get immediate medical attention from a GP or nurse without registering with a doctor.

Tony Blair announced in April that 20 walk-in centres would be set up in towns and cities, most attached to accident and emergency departments, and that NHS Direct would be extended to cover the whole country by the end of next year, as part of a pounds 280m investment over three years.

The Prime Minister said the NHS had to respond to what people wanted. A survey showed most people were satisfied with their GP but one in five said delays of four days or more to get an appointment were too long.

Dr John Chisolm, chairman of the GPs' committee, told the conference that the pace of change demanded by the Government was "dauntingly fast" and "driven by a political agenda, not the interests of patients".

NHS Direct, was being rolled out without good evidence of its advantages, and doctors were suspicious of plans to make patients book GP appointments through it, he said. Together with the walk-in centres, they constituted a policy that focused on meeting demand rather than need, which could encourage people to consult unnecessarily and threatened GPs' gatekeeping role.

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