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Wednesday 28 September 2016
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Fear GPs will 'freeze out' independent providers

An MP fears GPs will begin to freeze out independent providers for the provision of sexual health services under the new public health commissioning arrangements.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event today (6 December), Diane Abbott, Shadow Minister for Public Health, slammed the variation of primary care access in England and questioned its place in sexual health.

"For many Londoners, the average time a person has to wait on the phone to book an appointment with their GP is half an hour," said Abbott.

"This level of poor access is not good enough."

She said "there is a real danger" GPs will commission sexual health services solely from other GP surgeries, rather than look to other independent providers post-2013.

"Community pharmacists have done a great job to make it easy for people to access sexual health services they otherwise wouldn't have been able to access if they were left with general practice as their only option," Abbott told MiP.

"I would hate to see a pharmacist's role diminish because the system gives way to a GP's inclination to commission their own services."

Tory Minister for Public Health Anne Milton told MiP the new commissioning arrangements will lead to a more "imaginative and flexible" style of healthcare.

"Lot of different providers are looking to get involved in sexual health provision and I do not believe GPs will get in the way of that," she said.

"Local authorities know their population better than anyone and will commission the right services to meet people's needs."

Abbott said the future of sexual health provision will be "tricky" and believes the "breadth and quality of commissioning of sexual health services will be constrained" by local authorities dipping into their ring-fenced public health budget for services like the gritting of roads to prevent people falling over.

Also speaking at the event, Judith Hind, Contraceptive Manager in the Sexual Health Team at the Department of Health, countered Abbott's claim and said the conditions placed on public health funds devolved to local authorities will ensure "money is spent appropriately and not on filling in potholes".