Letter: Labour plan for GPs would hit patients

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The Independent Online
Sir: Three times recently Labour Party health spokespersons have stated they would abolish the GP fundholding scheme within 12 months of coming to power. I believe that this is a cost-cutting exercise, with little regard for the quality of care our patients receive.

The Audit Commission report on fundholding stated that fundholding GPs have developed better relationships with consultants. It also said that fundholders contract for quality of care and not finance or numbers and, most importantly for our patients, that fundholders provide a patient- sensitive health service which health authorities do not.

The long waiting lists of the 1980s seem to have been forgotten and improvements to local services ignored. The fact that 51 per cent of GPs have voluntarily become fundholders and that 97 per cent of them believe that fundholding has benefited their patients is dismissed.

The commission's report was selectively and inaccurately leaked to create the impression that fundholding has been a failure. It did not reach that conclusion. All fundholding GPs had, the report said, produced benefits for patients with some making considerable improvements in the services provided.

The opposition of the Labour Party to the NHS reforms is puzzling to those in closest contact with patients. I believe this to be a cruel cost- cutting exercise which they will justify on grounds of equality but which will harm patient care, reduce flexibility, innovation and the pressure for higher standards. If quality is not to be decreased in the name of equality in education (Mr Blair), surely it is even more important that this be true for our health.



National Association of

Fundholding Practices

London W1