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BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 11 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:151

Shadow health team calls for GP ballot

The shadow health secretary, Miss Ann Widdecombe, has called for GPs to be balloted on primary care groups (PCGs).

Miss Widdecombe told a briefing of journalists last week that there was “a lot of muddle and confusion” over what had been agreed between the government and the BMA (27 June, p 1927). She did not think that the agreement would answer GPs' concerns. Many of them felt dragooned into PCGs. Fundholding had given them flexibility; now rigid structures were being imposed and their freedom would be restricted. She said that there had been no proper debate in parliament on the proposals in the NHS white papers.

Admitting that there had always been rationing—by queues—Miss Widdecombe said that there was now disguised rationing and she called for an open debate. The professions and the public should be part of the debate with the aim of deciding whether there should be rationing and how it should be done. The shadow minister criticised the waiting list initiatives which were “distracting the government and distorting resources.” Waiting times were more important than waiting lists, but Miss Widdecombe was concerned that there …

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