June 19, 2008

Health Chief Hits Back at Concerned North GPs

HEALTH Secretary Alan Johnson has hit back at North East doctors concerned that a controversial shake-up could herald the death of traditional GP surgeries.

He said super-surgeries ordered for every part of England were about "patient convenience and patient choice" amid claims they will damage care by forcing traditional GP practices out of business.

Concerns focus on existing family doctors close to new clinics and in rural areas - with the Conservatives claiming more than 60 could be at risk in the region.

Mr Johnson spoke out after being challenged by Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin, who recently met local doctors, in the Commons.

Mr Mullin said: "They welcome the extra investment, but believe that the money could be spent more efficiently if it were spent via existing doctors' surgeries.

"When asked why, they say that some of the previous reforms, such as independent treatment centres, have proved quite wasteful."

The Health Secretary said: "I would tell those GPs that this is not the only investment being made in primary care.

About half a billion pounds is going into primary care this year from one source or another.

"In Sunderland, as well as in my city of Hull, GPs will have their own plans, but we will ensure that nowhere in the country is there a single patient who cannot gain access to primary care seven days a week, 365 days a year, between 8am and 8pm."

He added: "God forbid that I should make the link between Newcastle and Sunderland, but people who work in Newcastle and live in Sunderland will now be able to go to a GP-led health centre in Newcastle. This is about patient convenience and patient choice."

Mr Johnson's comments come as Blaydon MP Dave Anderson wrote to the Health Secretary and local health chiefs to seek reassurances over the issue. He said: "What I want is to see is improved health services because we do have problems with health outcomes in the area. But I do not want that at the detriment of services, I want them to complement."

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.