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 124.


    Well if that wise old man said that then we must all agree!

    @112 Chris888

    .....Once it's been decimated and 25% of the UK can't afford health-care, while most others are addicted to pain killers we can't turn back the clock.....

    Scaremongering again Chris888 - your rants are becoming so deluded that you are undermining what little credibility you actually have left!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    ..my GP said to me, this should teach you one thing, never vote Conservative..

    So someone likely to benefit from high state spending tells you not to vote for a party which by tradition tries to control state spending?
    Well gosh, who would have thought it?


  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    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 Vote:

    Conservatiuve, Labour, Labour, Labour, conservative/Libs

    We need a party that cares about the people & their Welfare and not lining there pockets and those of their donors and friends

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Remember all you defenders of the bill.
    NOT in Either party manifesto.
    NOT in coalition agreement.
    Ruled out by D Cameron in broadcasts and posters before election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    If the U.K. NHS is having problems with providing quality health care to their citizens imagine the ambitious plans of the ANC government in South Africa wanting to provide medical & hospital care for everyone.People need to look after their own health and not let their bodies deteriorate through poor eating habits and poor lifestyle choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.


    You mivght want to check up with your GP your symptoms of paranoia. How do you 'see a lot of tactical voting on HYS'?...I have voted you down, but was it tactical or simply because I did not agree with you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Any coincidence that the timing of this BBC survey is in the run up to the local elections next month?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Far from the first time GPs have expressed their reservations about the bill (sorry self-painted/claimed right-wingers).

    Of course, this opposition might make it work - they can see what's wrong and hopefully fix it. Whether that undermines the bill would be irrelevant.

    The risks are still there, the gvt should be publishing them at least for the medical professionals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    This poll will make no difference as the government listens to no one, even front line health care professionals.
    Health care is big business you know, and they want to cash in on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    @110 The Bladesman

    To be honest, I don't like the entire voting system, no opinion is less 'legitimate' than another, simply a different opinion.

    I also see a lot of tactical voting on these HYS, where people vote other people down purely because they think that their rating on the lists make their opinion more relevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    109. zzgrark
    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?

    Back then the NHS didn't have layer upon layer of 'management'. Now it has.....
    I think the Lady who stole the milk put the pin stripes and bean counters in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    21.Taffybird said

    "The Lib Dems will of course never get my vote again"

    So I can safetly rule out the Tories and LibDems from your vote, but am I right in guessing your'll vote for Labour? THAT's the problem! So many people will already have forgotton what Labour did to and they will just vote Labour to get rid of the Tories and LibDems because their too stupid to actully form a proper vote!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Wow, how can anyone defend the governments privatisation of the NHS?

    Is it not obvious to all that this is a corporate exercise where the only people who will benefit are the health insurance companies and other private leaches?

    Once it's been decimated and 25% of the UK can't afford health-care, while most others are addicted to pain killers we can't turn back the clock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    In the 1980s when the Thatcher Government tried much the same commisioning reforms in their dogmatic crusade to destroy the NHS my GP said to me, this should teach you one thing, never vote Conservative. He has just retired and today reminded me of his previous advice. Lansley is a dangerous man, intent on wrecking the NHS. Clegg should know better than to trust them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.


    I agree - publish a meaningless poll, allow another HYS on the subject to bolster further opposition. How many HYS have there been on this subject? 7? 8? Its getting ridiculous.

    We get the message BBC - the left don't like the bill! Getting the public to agree by bombarding them with irrelevant opinons from biased, self-serving doctors doesn't fool everyone though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    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?

    Back then the NHS didn't have layer upon layer of 'management'. Now it has.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Tories are just being Tories..
    But the lib dems have totally disgraced themselves.
    They will never recover from the wrath of a nation betrayed, they are finished as a respectable political party.
    Stench of faux power and they sold their souls just for the ego and a civil service staff car.
    For that they will rot in political limbo for 100 times longer then they will actually serve and rightly so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    The NHS is a bemoth which sucks in as much money as you care to throw at it. Demand is infinate: time for inovation:-
    Why do the price of prescriptions not appear on the packaging? Then patients might think twice before adding to their groaning bathroom cabinets. Unused prescriptions - even those dispensed by mistake that never leave the chemists have to be destroyed. This is mismanagement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I believe the government has to date only been able to fond 50 GP's who feel able to support the proposed bill; I would tend to see that as a fair reflection of what most health care professionals feel about it...

  • Comment number 105.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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