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Survey shows doctors' concern over NHS reform

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Less than one quarter of doctors think giving councils responsibility for delivering public health improvement will make it easier to tackle major issues according to a new survey.

The poll of 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors conducted by the King’s Fund and doctors.net.uk also questioned whether the National Health Service was capable of delivering improved efficiencies at the same time as delivering the reforms outlined in July’s Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS white paper.

On public health, some 47% of hospital doctors said they believed the changes would make it more difficult to tackle health inequalities, compared with 23% who took an opposing view. The proportions were said to be similar among GPs.

Additionally, 46% of clinicians said the reforms would not make it easier to tackle “major health issues” while 42% thought the need to focus on clinical outcomes within the NHS would mean that the service focused less on public health.

Overall, the survey – which was conducted before last week’s spending review – found just 24% of respondents believed the changes would improve the quality of patient care provided by their organisation or practice.

More positively for ministers, the survey found that more than 60% of GPs believed there were colleagues in their area with the capacity to lead new consortia that will take over commissioning from Primary Care Trusts from 2013.

King’s Fund policy director Anna Dixon said the survey results contained in What Doctors Think (see file, right) showed the proposed reforms were being viewed withcaution.

“The government is relying on doctors to deliver its health reforms,” she said. “It can take some comfort from the finding that the majority of GPs believe there is capacity in their area to lead new GP consortia.

“But this survey highlights significant scepticism among doctors about the government’s proposals and shows that ministers have a lot of work to do to convince them that the reforms will improve patient care.”

Tim Ringrose, managing director of medical communities at Doctors.net.uk, said the findings showed doctors were not convinced about the planned changes.

“Doctors recognise that collaboration between GPs and specialists and between the health service and social services is key,” he said.

“Clear, consistent communication with doctors about how the principles of these reforms translate into the reality of clinical practice should be a top priority for Andrew Lansley.”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said reform of the NHS was a necessity to sustain and improve the services.

“The reforms are far reaching but they also build upon existing designs,” he said. “But we recognise with any significant changes, there may be concerns - that is why we have been consulting on the details.

“We know there is an appetite to understand better what the reforms will mean in practice for individual organisations and patients. That is why we have already announced a programme where GP consortia can start testing these principles.

“Our plans give the NHS and patients a clear direction for the next five years and beyond. We believe that both purpose and pace are vital to improve services for patients.”

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