NHS reforms: GPs losing faith, BBC poll suggests

Stethoscope GPs are taking charge of the majority of the NHS budget under the reforms

The number of GPs who believe that the government's health reforms in England will improve patient care is falling, a BBC poll suggests.

Just 12% agreed that putting GP-led groups in charge of the budget would mean patients saw a "noticeable" improvement.

That figure was 23% when a similar poll was carried out in September 2010.

A majority of the 814 GPs polled also believed there would be more rationing of care because of financial pressures.

In total, 83% said there would be an increase in rationing in their area.

Ministers have cited the financial challenges facing the health service as one of the reasons they have pushed ahead with the changes in the face of mounting opposition.

While 12% of family doctors agreed that GP-led commissioning - the buying and planning of services on a local level - would improve care, some 55% said they disagreed and 33% said they did not know whether or not it would.

The polling also asked about another controversial aspect of the reforms - the role of the private sector.


Asked about the role of private companies in the NHS, 87% agreed the changes set out in the health bill would lead to them having a bigger role.

The King's Fund, a health think tank, said the poll highlighted once again the challenge facing the government in carrying the NHS with it as it implemented the health reforms.

"GPs will be in the vanguard of this - their commitment is essential for implementing clinical commissioning, the government's big idea for ensuring that care meets the needs of patients," said chief executive Chris Ham.

"The public will judge the government's stewardship of the NHS on the basis of whether patient care improves, so ministers should be concerned that many GPs fear that care will get worse rather than better in the years ahead."

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said the findings came as no surprise and reflected what doctors had been telling them directly.

"Increasingly, GPs are worrying that they will be blamed for making the hard decisions that may need to be made in order to meet the £20bn savings target set by the government. The government needs to be much more upfront with the public about the scale of savings that need to be made and why.

"If those who will have to deliver the latest health reforms are unconvinced and reluctant, the government should take notice of what they say."

April changes

In April next year the control of about £60bn of the NHS budget in England is due to pass to GP-led groups that will plan and buy most routine healthcare for their local community.


More than anyone else in the NHS, GPs are central to the government's plans for the NHS.

If you're a patient in England, your surgery will have agreed to work with others in your area. From April 2013, these GP-led groups - 240 of them - will be taking control of £60bn of the NHS budget.

So what GPs think matters, because they're essential to making this new system work.

This polling by ComRes suggests a deepening scepticism among GPs that putting them in charge will improve patient care.

Some believe they have been given too little power. Others are worried they're taking over as the NHS faces the lowest growth in its budget since the 1950s.

They will be taking over at a time of unprecedented financial pressure. The latest government statistics suggest the NHS is currently managing to meet all waiting targets and has found the savings needed in the last financial year. The polling for the BBC suggests considerable anxiety about what lies ahead.

Almost half of the GPs, 49%, thought the NHS would not be able to go on meeting the 18-week target for routine treatments. Just 22% thought that it would be possible. A similar picture emerged for A&E departments, with 42% agreeing the NHS would need to close or downgrade some in the next five years.

The health secretary Andrew Lansley said the Health and Social Care Act would hand power to GPs, put patients at the heart of the NHS, and reduce needless bureaucracy.

"Of course, every important reform to the NHS, under whatever government, has had its critics from within the system. But putting GPs in leadership positions in the NHS will mean they can improve services for their entire local population. Patients want doctors to make decisions about their care, not managers, and that is what our reforms will deliver."

Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health secretary, said the findings were significant.

"Most GPs are clear that the NHS is going in the wrong direction and that the government's changes will make it worse not better. These results echo the concerns Labour has consistently raised and flatly contradict the reassurances given by the prime minister to get his Bill through."

The poll interviews were carried out by ComRes for the BBC between 21 and 30 March.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    So many awkward questions being asked.So many answers our Masters do not like.
    Wonder how long it will take them to close down web sites they do not agree with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @96 That seems a bit simplistic to me. Most of the free stuff went in the late 80s, early 90s, well before the immigration and bank problems. There's something more fundamentally wrong that we don't see, that has been continued from then (or probably before) 'til now.

    PS.. Divide and rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    When I was a kid there was free dental care, free eye checks, free prescriptions and I got free milk at school too. What happened to it all?


    Its called uncontrolled immigration"

    Rubbish. The only thing of those that kids don't still get for "free" is school milk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    "Getting the lowest bidder to provide services will always create a race to the lowest standards"

    In the case of hygiene, I completely agree! Unfortunately, if you allow the private sector to sell you dross, it will.

    However, the comparison with the likes of BUPA is unfair. It already provides private services & has to safeguard its reputation. - Different ball game

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    What's this, a negative headline about the NHS plans?
    Where has this come from....OH I see...a BBC Poll !!!!
    If only the US news hadn't come out then this nonsense home-made got-the-answer-they-want story wouldn't be relegated to the THIRD biggest news story in the UK.
    Come on. Seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    The NHS is a political holy cow of the left. To suggest that it can only properly be State operated is nonsense - GP practices, for example, have ALWAYS been PRIVATE partnerships, handsomely rewarded for contracting their services to the NHS. So how does that differ from bringing in other, more efficient and cost effective, outside providers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Paul J Weighell

    "b) GPs are not best placed even to estimate the outcome as their expertise is hopefully medicine not the economic administration of an organisation the size of the NHS."


    Yes, and that is precisely why GPs are unwilling to be put in charge of the "economic administration" of the NHS! They know it's outwith their area of expertise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.


    Assaults to staff working A&E pass with minimal fuss from such a 'caring' public? Is paying to punch a nurse too much for us?


  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    When I was a kid there was free dental care, free eye checks, free prescriptions and I got free milk at school too. What happened to it all?


    Its called uncontrolled immigration, EU allowed to claim free NHS and benefits? and Bailout of Private Banks - Just to name a few!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Bit of perspective, number of GP's polled is 814
    Hardly reflective, but still an adequate number.

    Thing this does not tell is which 814 GP's they asked.
    For example, they should be random, by blind selection across the whole UK.
    However, I fear these 814 will be predominantly "selected" for their opposition.
    Cynical? Just a bit
    Any truth in it? I suspect there may be...

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    77. Space Read my post yes to the NHS and no to the GPs who are pretty much self serving and selfish. Its time the GPs returned back to the sector that they claimed to be. I dont rate this poll at all. I have total respect for those who work in the front line and our nurses, but those GPs who wont even visit their own patients after hours show what is wrong with the GPs opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    The GP-led groups will be rare as their work will go to private companies who will provide the commissioning expertise and, of course, be paid handsomely for it.
    Cameron's intention is that such private companies will be able to insert themselves into the NHS and, thus, get their hands on plenty of public money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Its obvious why GPs are against the HSC bill - they want a Labour government who will spend and spend on the NHS (therefore preserving their cushy jobs and high salaries) until they bankrupt the country again.

    When will people realise that they are in it for themselves, not patients. Ditto nurses. Government are right to ignore the ''healthcare prof.s''.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    When I was a kid there was free dental care, free eye checks, free prescriptions and I got free milk at school too. What happened to it all? I can't believe that the cost of new treatments and drugs has increased that much. Surely other health improvements counter some of this. If not, something really needs to be done about the extortionate costs that drug companies charge. Bring the NHS back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    For all those disparaging BUPA, I have 5 doctors in the practice I attend.
    For 2 years none of them could diagnose a condition I had.
    In desperation I went to BUPA.
    In TEN MINUTES their doctor told me what my GPs could not, and also prescribed treatment, which worked.
    Am now ok.
    No thanks to NHS GPs. Thanks NHS!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    #72Ace Face
    "I am glad to see that the majority of people have some commonsense and have given these types of post the rating they deserve"

    So there is only one right answer? Germany & France seem get along OK with private provision.

    The majority of people on here aren't even interested in the facts, and that's the subject descends into party political polemics

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I work in the NHS and all I'm seeing is cut cut cut. Somebody's not telling the truth. Ah, yes, that would be the Government again of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    a) The honest GPs are the 30% Don't Know as noone can know until some years have passed.

    b) GPs are not best placed even to estimate the outcome as their expertise is hopefully medicine not the economic administration of an organisation the size of the NHS.

    c) So much about the NHS is either emotional or political it is not easy to be objective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    So saddened by this. It's no surprise. We did warn the politicians but they would not listen, they did not know how, perhaps they'll listen now...

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Labour was bad, but what a horrific mistake we have made


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