The government's NHS reforms could lead to disgruntled patients lobbying outside surgeries, the head of Britain's GPs has warned.
Dr Clare Gerada (pictured), chair of the Royal College of GPs said the plans to allow doctors to allocate £80bn a year of health funding could cause unrest among patients who have been denied major surgery or access to life-extending drugs.
This could then lead to angry demonstrations and questions being raised over the high salaries of GPs.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's plans to give GPs the power to decide who gets treatment from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and PCTs in England from 2013 have also been criticised by Ms Gerada.
"At worst, the negative impact for GPs could be patients lobbying outside their front door, saying 'You've got a nice BMW car but you will not allow me to have this cytotoxic drug that will give me three more months of life'," she told the Guardian newspaper.
"I'm concerned that my profession, GPs, will be exposed to lobbying by patients, patient groups and the pharma industry to fund or commission their bit of the service. There could be letters from MPs and patient groups, and begging letters from patients."
The new head of GPs said that making doctors "the new rationers" of NHS care could diminish patient trust and turn then into "customers" who shop around trying to get the best treatment for their ailment.
The 51-year-old, who will represent Britain's 40,000 family doctors when she takes up the position, added: "Patients might think that the decision made about their healthcare will be based on self-interest – GPs saving money for themselves rather than spending it on patients."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Our reforms will indeed mark a new era for the NHS – one where patients and clinicians are at the heart of the service.
"Our reforms aren't an option, they are a necessity in order to sustain and improve our NHS.
"The reforms are far-reaching but they also build upon existing designs. We share a common goal with the RCGP that we all want patients to get the best health and care services."
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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"If there is no PCT to lobby and the NHS funding goes to GPs then they will be the most accessible group for patient's to challenge. Let's hope the consortia ensures that they have management with the ability and confidence to manage the process. 'Patient led NHS' is the aim of the government. Disgruntled patients here we come" - Name and address supplied