GP services in London 'need pounds 130m injection'

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COMMUNITY health services in London will require investment of at least pounds 130m to bring them up to acceptable standards before changes recommended by the Tomlinson inquiry into the future of London hospitals can be implemented.

Sir Bernard Tomlinson, whose inquiry report outlines the closure of four teaching hospitals and 2,500 beds in London, yesterday said that the extra expenditure on GP services was vital before the changes he recommended could take place.

Giving evidence to the health select committee's inquiry into his report, Sir Bernard said that the money was needed to improve GP services and attract new doctors into London.

He said that this was an essential part of the jigsaw which would provide a basis on which a strategy could be devised to break Londoners' habit of using expensive accident and emergency departments rather than seeking medical help in the first instance from their doctors.

But Pearl Brown, of Riverside Health Authority, and one of Sir Bernard's team, said that if the extra money to pump prime community health services was not made available by the Government, they would be extremely concerned.

However, Sir Bernard said that he had decided not to put costings for his sweeping proposals in the report because he felt it would not be feasible. Indeed, he said that he had had sharp disagreements with officials from the Department of Health. They had wanted him to take some costings for certain elements set out in the report.

But he denied he had been put under any political pressure by ministers over what should appear in the report which went to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, in October.

He told MPs 'it is disappointing but understandable' that comment on his recommendations had focused on the changes needed in the hospital sector in the next few years, rather than services for patients.

'We were given not a single word or gesture or suggestion from a minister that we should do or say anything,' he said. 'If we had been put under pressure I, frankly, would have resigned. We were not.'

Sir Bernard also refuted a report yesterday that he had suppressed a section of his paper that challenged the long-term need for a National Health Service market. 'That never existed,' he said. 'We never had a section. We never had a sketch of any sort that covered such a possibility.'