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GPs Face Backlash from Patients after Reform – will this lead to an increase in claims for medical negligence?

The Guardian has reported that doctors face demonstrations outside their surgeries and questions about their high salaries by angry patients because of the government’s radical NHS shakeup, the new leader of Britain’s GPs warns.

Desperate patients denied life-extending drugs or surgery for their ailments may vent their frustrations on GPs, because they are due to assume control of deciding how £80bn-a-year of health funding is spent, said Dr Clare Gerada, who has taken over as chair of the Royal College of GPs. She also hit out at the decision to transfer responsibility for rationing access to treatment from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and primary care trusts to GPs in England from 2013.

“At worst, the negative impact for GPs could be patients lobbying outside their front door, saying, ‘You’ve got a nice BMW car but you will not allow me to have this cytotoxic drug that will give me three more months of life,'” Gerada told the Guardian in an interview. Making GPs “the new rationers” of NHS care could ruin the long-established bonds of trust between them and their patients.

GPs in their new role will bear the brunt of the NHS’s need to save £20bn by 2014, which will lead to far more “postcode lotteries” in services such as IVF, expensive drugs, and even access to particular hospital specialists such as surgeons and gynaecologists. Leaving each of the new GP consortiums to decide individually what treatment should or should not be available locally will lead to disputes over access to care. “I don’t understand why he’s putting in a system that in Scunthorpe you can get a different service to Scarborough, when we’ve spent the last 60 years working against that”, said Gerada.

Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.

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