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GPs appear to offer “olive branch” to government over reforms

But RCGP insists its position remains unchanged and wants Bill dropped

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Royal College of GPs has written to Prime Minister David Cameron saying that the College is prepared to work with the Government to find a way forward after a stalemate was reached between the two sides over the Health Bill.

The move has been seen by some commentators as “an olive branch” and by others as “a climbdown” because the RCGP has been one of the strongest critics of the government’s reforms.

However a spokeswoman for the RCGP said that the College’s position over the Bill was “unchanged”. “We still call for the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill,” she said.

“Whatever happens with the Bill, the changes to the infrastructure of the NHS are happening now as PCTs are dismantled and the new commissioning arrangements are being implemented. It is right and logical that the College invites the Government to work with us to ensure that the NHS is fit for purpose, stable and safe for the patients who use it, now and in the future.

“The College remains firm in its belief that the reform the NHS needs could happen without this complex and confusing wholesale restructure.

“Whatever the future of the Bill, there is an urgent need to secure the stability of the NHS in England now.”

The letter to Mr Cameron, which was sent by RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada over a week ago, reads: “We both share a passion for the NHS and we all want to find a way of improving it. We have common ground: we’ve long said that we want a clinically led, professionally managed health service. The College has welcomed the Government’s commitment to placing GPs at the heart of decision-making.”

The letter continues: “The last 18 months have polarised the debate and we feel it is now the time to restate our similarities rather than continuously focus on our differences.”

It adds that while the RCGP’s position against the Health and Social Care Bill remained “consistent” if it is passed by Parliament it will be GPs in England who will have to implement the changes.

“I am therefore writing to you in the hope that we can find an acceptable way forward in which the Royal College of General Practitioners is able to work with the Government towards the future stability of the NHS in England and where we can help you find a way through the tensions to achieve a better health service for our patients,” Dr Gerada says.

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