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PM will press ahead with health reforms after yesterday’s meeting

Discussion “constructive and encouraging” and chance to myth-bust, says No 10

Caroline White

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron intends to press ahead with the impending legislation for healthcare reforms, following yesterday’s meeting with health secretary Andrew Lansley and a range of representatives from healthcare organisations to discuss the implications of the legislation.

Topics included what progress the newly emergent clinical commissioning groups were making, the importance of keeping patients at the heart of the reforms and ensuring that local services are well integrated, and the vexed issue of competition, said the PM’s office.

"Reform is never easy, but it is vital to reform our NHS because I want it to be there looking after every family in the country and doing a good job into the future. We had a constructive and helpful meeting, and what's clear is that there are quite a few myths that we need to bust about this reform,” said the PM afterwards.

I also heard how, on the ground, where some of the reforms are already taking place, you are actually seeing better health outcomes, GPs doing more things for their patients, people living healthier lives as a result of these changes," he added.

But those hoping for a sea change are likely to be disappointed. The PM made it clear that the reforms are about "evolution not revolution" and agreed with Mike Farrar of the NHS Confederation, one of the attending organisations, that the focus needed to move from the theory of the reforms to the reality of implementation.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Physicians, Anaesthetists, Paediatrics and Child Health, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, along with patient umbrella group National Voices, the Foundation Trust Network, the NHS Alliance and the National Association of Primary Care.

Representatives from GP organisations “representing thousands of GPs on the ground”, clinical commissioning group leaders, former Labour health minister Ara Darzi, and Sir Stephen Bubb, who sits on the NHS Future Forum panel, also attended.

But conspicuous by their absence were representatives from the Royal College of GPs, the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwives, and the BMA, all of whom have been vocal opponents of the Health and Social Care Bill in recent weeks.

A Downing Street spokeswoman attempted to play down their absence, insisting that the meeting was “part of ongoing dialogue” with healthcare organisations and that the PM met regularly with the BMA and other representative bodies.

When asked if these bodies would be invited to further meetings, she told OnMedica that the PM’s office did not give out notice of meetings in advance.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that there were no plans to meet health groups opposed to the changes, but added: “There is more work to be done on implementation and making sure the stakeholders are involved.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council said: “It is extremely disappointing that the government seems increasingly to be indulging in selective listening. The BMA represents nearly 150,000 doctors–in hospitals, community services and general practice.

We want to find a way to make sure patient care continues to improve. If the government shares this objective, it has to recognise that NHS reform must have the support of these–and all other–health professionals.”

Dr Peter Carter, who heads up the Royal College of Nursing, reiterated the College’s preparedness “to engage in constructive discussion,” despite its opposition to the Bill.

On his way to the meeting yesterday, health secretary Andrew Lansley was loudly heckled and jostled by a group of protesters, which he brushed off as “sticks and stones,” according to BBC News.

He made it plain that the government was sticking with the Bill and that privatisation was not part of the plans for the NHS.

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