Having heralded Labour leader Ed Miliband the day before for his 8,000 new doctors pledge, the Royal College of General Practitioners has rejected shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s proposals to create hospital-led integrated care organisations.
Mr Burnham (pictured), speaking at the Labour conference in Manchester, told delegates that if elected, the party “will free the NHS from [David] Cameron’s market and…repeal his toxic Health and Social Care Act”. Key to this would be to get hospital trusts and other NHS bodies to “evolve into NHS integrated care organisations, working from home to hospital coordinating all care - physical, mental and social”.
However Mr Burnham’s speech did not go down well with RCGP chair Maureen Baker who said “his plans could destroy everything that is great and that our patients value about general practice and could lead to the demise of family doctoring as we know it”. She noted that he had criticised “the expensive and time-consuming top-down reorganisation” of the NHS as a result of the Health and Social Care Act, “yet his proposals would be just as disruptive, causing even more upheaval for patients and distracting doctors and managers”.
Ms Baker added that “GPs want to work as part of wider clinical teams to ensure that the NHS can provide a single service to each patient, instead of the fragmented approach that too often is experienced by patients”. However, “it makes no sense for hospitals – organisations that provide acute, intermittent and specialist care – to lead on the delivery of person-centred, continuous and co-ordinated care”.

She acknowledged that “there are things we could do better and general practice – like all other parts of the NHS – needs to modernise. But it is critical that any changes must not sabotage the unique relationship we have with our patients and the way that we tailor services to our local populations”.

However, Mr Burnham’s speech went down well with delegates on the floor, fiercely criticising the government and saying that the election next year “is a battle for the soul of the NHS. The fight of our lives”.