Changes to general practice that will see GPs taking control of £80bn of public funding were described as "the biggest change since Nye Bevan introduced the NHS" at the Management in Practice London Event today (Wednesday 1 September).
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair Elect of the RCGP, made the comments during a speech in which she also said general practice will need to change and develop because the traditional form of family healthcare is "not fit for the future".
Dr Gerada (pictured), who will become RCGP Chair in November – the first female chair for more than 50 years – said that the idea of "partnership" in general practice will need to extend to practices working together in federated models and commissioning consortia.
The white paper Equity and Excellence was the talking point of the conference. Dr David Colin-Thomé, National Director of Primary Care at the Department of Health, told practice manager and GP delegates that the commissioning responsibilities handed to GPs should be seen as an opportunity for the frontline to extend its influence.
"Up to now, primary care leadership has not been sufficiently appreciated. Your jobs are the most fundamental part of the future," Dr Colin-Thomé told delegates.
He was adamant that general practice was able to take up the "interesting challenge" that the white paper had presented, and that the strong attributes of general practice – which he called the "bedrock of the NHS" – would enable GPs to be "much more imaginative commissioners of care".
"Population-based primary care is where the needs of individuals and of the community can be met," he said.
Dr Richard Vautrey, Vice Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the white paper presented both risks and opportunities to general practice.
He warned that GPs could come to be seen as the "fall guys" for healthcare spending cuts, and that their position as commissioners could also potentially damage the doctor/patient relationship.
However, he also said the changes were an opportunity for GPs to show what they could do, and could lead to "real involvement in providing services for patients" and reduce bureaucracy, though he added: "But how long will that last before the Department of Health starts to ask more and more of consortia as they did with PCTs?"
More than 400 delegates attended the Management in Practice Event, which took place at the Business Design Centre in Islington.