The British Medical Association’s GP leader has launched a blistering attack on the new Health and Social Care Act, saying it “risks endangering the NHS in England.”

In a speech to the Local Medical Committee conference in Liverpool today, Dr Laurence Buckman warned that the NHS will run out of GPs if issues around rising workloads and pension reform are not addressed.

He also expressed disappointment about the direction of the government’s commissioning reforms, warning that many GPs felt left out of the development of clinical commissioning groups.

“Many GPs feel that, despite government promises, they are not the ones in control of how their CCGs are being deployed,” he said.

Dr Buckman acknowledged that in some areas of the country the development of CCGs is progressing positively. However, he argued that in others managers are trying to impose structures that are “unacceptable.”

“If CCGs are ‘membership organisations’ as we keep on being told, they are our creatures not just another version of the primary care trusts they replace.

“GPs should be telling them what to do, not the other way round. The government needs to make it so.”

Dr Buckman’s speech represents a significant hardening of attitude. When the ‘Liberating the NHS’ white paper was published two years ago, many GPs initially welcomed it because of its commitment to GP-led commissioning.

However, the BMA has always been worried that the paper and the subsequent act will give more scope to private providers, and the LMCs conference will debate a number of motions critical of the government’s reforms.

It is also due to debate the future of the GP Systems of Choice initiative and NHS 111 over the next two days.

The BMA has given a generally luke-warm response to the NHS information strategy, which was published at the start of the week.

The strategy details the government’s commitment to give patients online access to their GP records by 2015 and says patients should also have access to other digital transactional services, including email communication with practices.

Dr Buckman said the BMA GP Committee cautioned against the potential use of email for consultations, because “compared to a telephone or face-to-face consultation it is difficult for GPs to assess someone quickly and safely this way.”

He said the BMA supported the wider implementation of online booking and ordering repeat prescriptions online, as long as patients without internet access can still contact their surgery in the usual way.

“When it comes to patients being able to view their records online, we believe patients should have access to their health records, but we’d want to be satisfied that their records would remain secure before this was implemented,” Dr Buckman added.

Read more GP responses to the information strategy in Insight.