In an exchange over the government's controversial health reforms at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday, David Cameron cited "a supportive GP . . . who hails from Doncaster [Ed Miliband's constituency]".
In this week's New Statesman (on newsstands tomorrow), Sophie Elmhirst travels to David Cameron's own Witney constituency in West Oxfordshire, where a senior partner of a local GP practice tells her:
"I would say very few GPs are happy with [the NHS reform] at all . . . Not a question of supporting it, it's a question of going along with it."
"In my practice, nobody supports the changes . . . people think there should be more clinical involvement in commissioning. But I don't think many people think that GPs are the right people to commission. They need input into it - but if we wanted to be managers we would have trained to be managers, not doctors. "
The GP adds:
"Most GPs are incredibly worried about conflict of interest. How can you be a patient's advocate and look after the money? A lot of people think the whole thing's designed to fail so they can bring private providers in. It's the one big bit of the economy that hasn't got private money in it."
Of the effects to patients from the health service overhaul, the Witney GP says:
"The public have just got no idea what's hitting them . . . Things are going to fail, hospitals will close, because the money's not going to be there. Things will get taken over. And if you're going to have to make a profit out of it, you're not going to have the same service."
In the same report, Elmhirst speaks to Dr Paul Roblin, the chief executive of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Local Medical Council, which covers Cameron's Witney constituency. Speaking about the health and social care bill, currently working its way through the House of Lords, Roblin, a retired GP, says:
"It's a major change which is quite experimental at a time when the NHS is trying hard to save money. The timing doesn't seem to be good. Among GPs there's a huge spectrum of enthusiasm from those that think commissioning will work to those who think that think it's another fad in the NHS and will soon pass."
"There is a large bulk in middle just watching events, and waiting to see what happens. [They are] slightly perturbed - they didn't go into medicine to do that sort of thing [commissioning] and it's a distraction from actually seeing patients."
"Many GPs are fed up with continual NHS restructuring.... The actual job... takes a back seat for many years while the restructuring is taking place. It's a very wasteful process."
Roblin issues a personal message to the prime minister:
"Produce an environment where people within the NHS can concentrate on what really matters which is patient care rather than structural reorganisation. Because continual change is draining and wasteful. They describe it as modernisation. I think they should stop using that political euphemism."