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Health reform: GPs to make windfall profit on shares in private firms as health bill becomes law

The controversial bill to reform the NHS, making GPs responsible for the commissioning of services and abolishing Primary Care Trusts received its royal assent yesterday to formally become law.

Yet as the dust settles on the legislation and the reality sets in, it has emerged that some GPs are facing windfall profits on shares bought in private healthcare firms who are set to benefit in the new-look NHS.

Doctors' leaders are now warning that any situation in which GPs are seen to profit from changes to the way the health system is run would be bad for patient trust and could lead to more NHS services being run privately.

Research conducted by False Economy a research group funded by the Trade Union Council, has revealed that GPs in at least 22 of the 50 new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have financial interests in private healthcare firms.

A spokesman for False Economy said: "The risk revealed by our findings is that GPs who formed provider companies in good faith, in response to government policy, and often on a cooperative basis, find themselves accused of trying to profit from GP commissioning by rival bidders - often big health firms with private-equity backers looking for any opportunity to muscle in on local health services."

The survey revealed that all six GPs making up the board of Bath and North East Somerset CCG work at surgeries that are part of Assura Minerva, a local GP-Virgin Care partnership.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that such outside interests may risk doctor-patient relationships in future.

"The fact that GPs have these outside interests may influence their commissioning decisions, and may put at risk their relationship with their patients because the patient might mistrust where they are being sent to for treatment and the GP's motives," said the chair of the RCGP, Dr Clare Gerada.

Johnny Marshall is chairman of the National Association of Primary Care. He says that GPs must be above suspicion.

"It's really important as a public body from a conflicts-of-interest point of view that we end up operating above reproach and suspicion. We can't find ourselves in the position where there's a perception among patients that the decisions we are taking about their care are influenced by personal financial gain," he said.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

How laws are made in Parliament (FIndLaw)