The majority of family doctors in the UK are backing the Conservative health policy over Labour’s, despite misgivings over plans to hand GPs commissioning responsibilities, a poll for GP newspaper indicates.

According to GP’s poll of 314 doctors, only 15% plan to vote for Labour in the upcoming general election while 53% said they could tick the Conservative box, which, the publication points out, is a far cry from results in 1997 when just 24% backed the Tories.

It seems doctors have lost faith in Labour’s health direction because of concerns over its key policies and initiatives, particularly practice-based commissioning, which was hailed as a revolutionary scheme that would encourage better clinical engagement, more efficient use of resources and provide a more tailored service for patients, but has thus far failed to reach its potential.

Even so, the Tory plan to hand over responsibility for budgets to GPs, also put forward by the National Association of Primary Care back in November as an alternative to the flailing PBC policy, is also proving unpopular, with only 30% of those surveyed supporting the idea.

In addition, the poll also revealed that a massive 78% were opposed Labour’s latest idea of dissolving practice boundaries, a move planned for this year in order to further propel the government’s patient choice agenda and incorporate a deeper element of competition into general practice, in the hope that this will help fuel quality improvements.

And according to Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association, the roll out of former health minister Lord Ara Darzi’s polyclinics/supersurgeries - which are designed to offer a much wider range of services than normal practices to take some of the heat off hospitals and push care into the heart of the community - “has to top the list” of Labour policies most disliked by GPs, the paper reports.

While the government is pouring millions of pounds into the establishment of such polyclinics around the country, a recent study published in the British Journal of General Practice found that they are not living up to expectations, and, in fact, provide a range of services similar to that of normal GP practices.

Patient-led NHS
Broadly speaking, the Tories are flying the flag for a patient-led NHS, which allows patients to choose between a wide range of public and independent sector providers, where and when they receive treatment and, somewhat controversially, where they take control of their own medical records. The party has also pledged to remove political interference from the Service so that healthcare professionals take charge of delivering care, and has promised to boost accountability to patients, not politicians.

However, health minister Mike O'Brien told GP that the Conservatives “will bring the NHS to its knees if elected this year”, and argued that “there would not have been such significant investment in the GP contract under David Cameron's Conservatives”.