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Doctors 'should enlist patients' in anti-austerity fight

DOCTORS will have to enlist patients in the fight against an onslaught of Con-Dem cuts, pensioners at a national gathering in Blackpool were told yesterday.

Royal College of General Practitioners vice-chair Dr Tim Ballard told delegates at the National Pensioners Convention that it should be celebrated that more people were living longer lives.

But old age often meant complex medical conditions — and GPs were being ordered to do even more with less than ever before.

General practices dealt with around 90 per cent of the people who receive primary care services each day, he said, yet drew just over 8 per cent of the primary care budget.

And GPs only have the time to spend about 10 minutes with each patient — “simply not enough to attend to the complex needs that people now have,” Dr Ballard said.

“As a friend of mine said: ‘We’re always so busy pulling drowning people out of the river that we never have time to go around the bend and see which bugger is pushing them in’.”

And practices in rural or impoverished areas could shut for good if the coalition carries out its threat to axe the minimum practice income subsidy.

“This is not about increasing the pay of GPs, it’s about investing in out-of-hospital care, to be delivered close to people’s homes with proper consultation times and professionals you can trust.”

Dr Ballard’s address followed shortly after reports that the NHS faces a funding gap of up to £2 billion in 2015 as a result of real-terms spending cuts.

Cuts-crazed Chancellor George Osborne has capped increases in the NHS budget to just 0.5 per cent over the coalition’s entire term — far less than the rate of inflation and “an effective cut of £16bn” according to the Social Market Foundation.

And what cash remains is being siphoned off to private health firms under the government’s “any qualified provider” contracts.

“They say it’s not privatisation because it’s still free at the point of use,” said Dr Louise Irvine of Save Lewisham Hospital.

“But that handover is still a form of privatisation,” she said.


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