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More than 500 GPs sign petition calling for NHS bill to be shelved

Avalanche of protest from clinicians and managers greets 3rd reading

Caroline White

Tuesday, 06 September 2011

More than 500 GPs have signed a petition calling for the Health and Social Care Bill, which begins its third reading and report stage in the House of Commons today, to be shelved.

Some 505 GPs, who belong to the Medical Practitioners' Union (MPU), which is part of public sector union, Unite, have added their signatures since July. The numbers refute the prime minister’s assertion that the health professions back the NHS reforms in England, said MPU President, Dr Ron Singer.

“Our survey nails the ministerial canard that because GPs have signed up to clinical commissioning groups, they are supportive of the bill —this is clearly not the case,” contended Dr Singer.

The reason why GPs had signed up to the new groups was to ensure that they had the necessary resources to treat their patients, but did not signify support for the proposed reorganisation of the NHS, he suggested

“At what is a critical week for the future of the NHS as we know it, a substantial number of commissioning GPs have expressed their anger at the direction of government policy,” he said.

Elsewhere, health professionals made their disgruntlement known in a letter to The Times, published yesterday.

The Royal College of Nursing and other health organisations claim that despite some positive amendments, among the 1000 or so made, the proposed legislation “could still destabilise the NHS.”

The signatories, which include Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of BMA Council, and Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, wrote: “We share a number of more detailed concerns, including: the removal of the private patient income cap; “bonus” payments to clinical commissioning groups, and the need for further reassurances over the Secretary of State’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service.

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar added managers’ voices to clamour of the concerns, when he said: "We remain to be convinced that the reforms will deliver a coherent system and enable the health service to tackle the most significant challenges it faces today.”

He added: "The way the bill currently stands, there is a risk that the decision making process to change local services [will be] hindered by new structures, taking away the freedom and clarity local decision makers need to drive better care for their patients.”

And he suggested: "There is a real danger that the NHS could find itself in paralysis at the very moment it needs to make key decisions about the sustainability of parts of the NHS."

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