Change or lose public confidence, GPs are warned from No 10

16 Mar 00
GPs were told direct from Downing Street that they must embrace change or face extinction this week. The health service must be reinvented as a 'twenty-first century service sector industry', Prime Minister Tony Blair warned.

17 March 2000

Poor performance would undermine the public's faith in a tax-funded health service, the GPs were told at a British Medical Association conference in Harrogate on a video-link from Number 10.

Public confidence would disappear if primary care services such as GPs' surgeries were not oriented towards the needs of patients, according to Blair and Health Secretary Alan Milburn.

As government increased NHS spending, public expectations would rise. But calls for a privately-funded health service could grow if services were not more accessible.

Blair told the conference on the future of general practice that it was his responsibility to resource and staff the NHS properly. But he added: 'I can get extra resources into the NHS but I can only do it if it is happening alongside modernisation and change.'

Milburn said a modernised health service should be a provider of information in order to help people treat themselves or prevent illness. It must offer new services, such as NHS Direct. Figures to be published soon will show the telephone helpline has a 97% approval rating.

BMA GPs leader John Chisholm accepted that change was needed but he added that this would not be achieved without more cash.


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