A story uncovered by the BBC earlier this week is a classic example of a good reason to have concerns about handing a large proportion of the NHS budget to GPs.
A GP practice in
Yorkshire has apparently written to some of its patients advising them that certain minor dermatological procedures will no longer be available at their local NHS Trust and offering the treatments privately.
If this is true – it is wrong on so many levels.
I support any GP who takes proactive steps to maintain the health and wellbeing of their patients. But removal of skin tags? (£56.30). Is this a public health issue? I’m aware of the obesity epidemic and the ticking time bomb of diabetes – but an Armageddon of skin tags? A massacre of benign tumours (£243.20)?
I wonder what the cost of this mail shot was in terms of time and postage. And what was the motive behind it? Giving these GPs the very best benefit of the doubt and assuming they are concerned for their patients’ welfare – one cannot nevertheless deny that that one of the private options offered was a Clinic ‘wholly owned and operated’ by the GP practice.
So – here we have a private company potentially benefiting from a mail shot that is apparently generated using NHS patient details to promote its services. Can you imagine the outcry if a private hospital used an NHS GP practice’s database to promote cosmetic services in the local area?
Clare Gerada – chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners shares the concerns of many, saying ‘We believe that the boundary between what a GP offers under their NHS provision and what is offered for a private fee, is in danger of becoming increasingly blurred’
David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference said ‘It is our policy to protect the NHS…’ I have no doubt that the coalition genuinely has no intention of privatising the NHS and I support competition for the delivery of some services from the private sector, especially if commissioning decisions are based on quality and price.
But let us not forget that most GPs are self employed, private contractors. I fear that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary still doesn’t fully understand that by handing the lion share of the NHS budget to GPs there is a real danger that in some cases the lines may not only become blurred – in some cases they may disappear altogether.