GPs threaten Dorrell with hostile campaign

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Family doctors' leaders have given Stephen Dorrell an ultimatum to back down tomorrow over "supermarket surgeries" or face the threat of GPs joining the general election campaign against the Government.

The leader of the BMA negotiating committee, Dr Ian Bogle, warned the Health Secretary in a telephone call at the weekend that he was not satisfied with the amendment promised by the Government to the Primary Care Bill.

"It doesn't protect against the commercialisation of general practice, and it doesn't match up with the promises given by Mr Dorrell," a senior BMA source said.

The Health Secretary last week announced a retreat from a plan to allow firms outside the NHS for the first time to hire doctors to carry out work on NHS patients. The aim was to allow firms to come forward with ideas. But alarm spread after interest was expressed by PPS the health insurance firm, Asda the supermarket chain, and Unichem the high street chemist chain, following a report in The Independent.

The Health Secretary is under pressure to come up with a hurriedly revised draft of the amendment today to stop the BMA and the Opposition parties causing a hold-up at the start of the first day of the committee stage of the Bill tomorrow in the Commons.

The rest of the Bill, which allows pilot schemes for the expansion of facilities by GPs, is supported by the BMA.

Mr Dorrell agreed last week to amend the Bill following opposition to the clause allowing companies to hire GPs to open surgeries.

The BMA said it would allow GPs to be tenants of supermarket chains, but would fight tooth and nail to stop GPs becoming supermarket employees.