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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Reid focus on 'entrepreneur' GPs
John Reid
The health secretary took part in Labour's daily press conference
John Reid says he wants to allow the most "entrepreneurial" GPs the opportunity to use their initiative to broaden the scope of patient services.

That would allow direct local access to medical tests that have traditionally been available only in hospitals.

He denied that walk in centres, where appointments were not required, would replace traditional GP surgeries.

The Lib Dems accused Labour of being "obsessed" with false choices and putting targets ahead of patient care.

Earlier the health secretary opened a new walk-in centre in north east London which he said was the 63rd since Labour came to power.

Demands up

Mr Reid told a news conference: "Let me make it plain. Contrary to some reports this is not the end of the family doctor. Quite the opposite.

"We have more doctors - 31,500 - in practice than ever before. We have more doctors in training than ever before. We are putting more money into primary care than ever before. We anticipate even more doctors in the community than ever before in the future."

Mr Reid acknowledged there were also more demands than ever before with people living longer and that some areas remained "under-provided" with doctors.

Under the new programme, the Department of Health will help primary care trusts fund the start-up costs of services that expand the provision in the area.

In theory it could lead to specialist GP-led diabetes or asthma clinics being set up or GPs being employed to work across several PCTs if they had the time.

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the programme would make no difference to family doctors.

'Interference'

"GPs need less interference from administrators and more resources directed to the delivery of frontline services.

"It is unacceptable that under Labour there are more administrators than GPs working in Primary Care Trusts."

A BBC investigation meanwhile has found the NHS is not meeting targets to see patients who need emergency GP care outside normal office hours.

GPs have been allowed to hand over responsibility for out-of-hours care to primary care trusts since October

Lib Dem Paul Burstow said: "The new arrangements for out of hours services are causing problems in many areas of the country.

"Patients are confused, and often end up in A&E inappropriately, putting more burden on hospital services. More needs to be done to ensure out of hours care can be provided in the community."

Mr Reid accused the Tories of planning to end guaranteed maximum waiting times and said a Conservative administration would put NHS Direct, the 24 hour health helpline, under threat.




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