70% of GPs say they are concerned about conflicts of interest inherent in the government's planned NHS reforms, with 68% specifically citing the impact they could have on the patient-doctor relationship, a new survey has found.

69% are also concerned about the potential for such conflicts as a result of their role as both the commissioners and providers of care, according to the survey, which was conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The poll was conducted in April and surveyed every GP in the UK on issues ranging from workload and morale to the potential changes happening in primary care due to the Health and Social Care Bill. With a response rate of 40%, or 18,757 out of 46,700 GPs, it is the most significant survey of GP opinion in recent years, says the BMA.

Other key findings of the survey are that:
- 88% of GPs say the intensity of their consultations has increased in the last five years;
- 84% say the complexity of their consultations has increased in the same period;
- 75% of GPs in England do not agree with the proposal in the Health and Social Care Bill to link practice income to the performance of their commissioning group; and
- 85% do not believe that practice boundaries should be abolished.

Commenting on these findings, Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA GPs Committee, said that this "huge response rate shows how strongly GPs feel about the topics in question, particularly when it comes to the changes being made to the health service in England." 

"GPs do not want the trust patients put in them to be damaged by these reforms, yet this is exactly what they fear will happen. The government must take heed and further revise its plans for the quality premium in particular, to avoid any potential damage to the doctor-patient relationship," he cautioned.

General practice has undergone huge change since 2007, when the BMA last carried out a survey of this size, and this is shown clearly by the belief among the vast majority of GPs that the nature of their work has become more complex and intense, Dr Buckman noted.

"Much of the work we do now, such as looking after people with diabetes, used to be done in hospital, and even though it's work we want to do because of the clear benefit to patients, it has made it harder to fit a consultation into a 10-minute slot and it can make it more difficult to deal with surges in demand," he added.

Dr Buckman said that the findings of the survey will be "invaluable” to the BMA “in shaping our priorities in the months and years ahead."