Doctors sceptical about the benefits of health reforms according to new survey

A new survey commissioned by The King's Fund with Doctors.net.uk (DNUK) has revealed significant scepticism among doctors about the government's proposed health reforms.

  • Less than 1 in 4 doctors believe that the government's proposed reforms will improve patient care.
  • Just over 1 in 5 doctors believe that the NHS will be able to maintain its focus on improving efficiency while implementing the proposed reforms.
  • More positively for the government, over 60 per cent of GPs believe there are GPs in their area with the capacity to lead new GP consortia.

A new role for doctors

The government has placed doctors at the heart of its proposed health reforms, with GPs set to lead new consortia that will take over commissioning healthcare from primary care trusts, assuming responsibility for up to £80 billion of public money. The survey, which was conducted by DNUK's market research arm medeConnect, reflects the views of 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors and was undertaken shortly after consultation on the health White Paper closed.

It underlines the challenge facing the government in convincing doctors that the proposed reforms will improve the quality of care. It also reflects concern that, with the Spending Review committing the NHS to finding up to £20 billion in efficiency savings by 2015, implementing the reforms may distract it from the urgent task of improving productivity.

The survey also revealed mixed views about the likely impact of other aspects of the reforms.

  • Only around a quarter agree that giving responsibility for public health to local authorities will make it easier to tackle major health issues, with nearly half disagreeing with this.
  • Over 40 per cent agree that it will be more difficult to tackle health inequalities under GP commissioning.
  • Slightly more believe the reforms will encourage closer working between GPs and hospital doctors, with 39 per cent agreeing with this and 36 per cent disagreeing.

Improving efficiency in the NHS

The survey, which was undertaken before last week's Spending Review announcement, also sought views about how to improve efficiency in the NHS. It asked respondents to identify the three most effective ways of improving efficiency from a list of options.

  • Over 60 per cent chose improved collaboration between different health services and professionals.
  • Around a third chose reducing the range of services and treatments available on the NHS (cosmetic surgery, fertility treatment and treatments for obesity were the services most often mentioned for cutting).
  • Just over a quarter opted for reconfiguring local services with cuts in some areas.
  • Only 1 in 10 chose reducing staffing levels.

Our views on the survey

Commenting on the findings, Anna Dixon, Director of Policy at The King's Fund, said:

'The government is relying on doctors to deliver its health reforms. It can take some comfort from the finding that the majority of GPs believe there is capacity in their area to lead new GP consortia. But this survey highlights significant scepticism among doctors about the government's proposals and shows that ministers have a lot of work to do to convince them that the reforms will improve patient care.'

Dr Tim Ringrose, Managing Director of Medical Communities at Doctors.net.uk said:

'This survey reveals that the majority of doctors are not yet convinced that the proposed reforms will work to improve the quality of care delivered by the NHS, and furthermore can’t see how efficiency savings can be made at the same time. Doctors recognise that collaboration between GPs and specialists and between the health service and social services is key. Clear, consistent communication with doctors about how the principles of these reforms translate into the reality of clinical practice should be a top priority for Andrew Lansley.'

See the results of the doctors' survey

Notes to editors: 

  1. For further information, please contact either The King’s Fund’s press and public affairs office on 020 7307 2585 (if you are calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146035) or the Doctors.net.uk press office on 01295 788655 or at doctors@talapr.co.uk
  2. The survey was commissioned by The King’s Fund with Doctors.net.uk (DNUK) and conducted by DNUK’s research division medeConnect Healthcare Insight. Respondents were recruited from the Doctors.net.uk membership. Responses were collected from 500 GPs and 500 hospital doctors, with a representative spread of responses across regions and seniority assured using quotas. The survey was conducted over the period 8-18 October.
  3. For the full findings, you can read the report on our website or at www.doctors.net.uk
  4. The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.
  5. Doctors.net.uk is an online community with 180,000 members, making it the largest network of medical professionals in the UK. Each day, 1 in 4 UK doctors access its resources and services. It provides a channel though which the health service and industry can communicate with and research the opinions of medical professionals. medeConnect Healthcare Insight is the market research division of Doctors.net.uk.