The Government’s health reforms are under sustained attack following a call by the UK’s largest medical Royal College for the Bill’s complete withdrawal.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has today written to the Prime Minister calling for him to scrap the Health and Social Care Bill.
In an unequivocal statement, RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada (pictured) said the College had been left with ‘no alternative’ after three quarters of respondents to a poll carried out by the RCGP said they thought it appropriate to seek the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill.
The move has been commended by the British Medical Association.
Chairman of BMA Council, Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "The RCGP statement seeking withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill surely scotches, once and for all, the Government's claims that there is professional support for this deeply flawed, damaging and unnecessary legislation.
“Whilst GPs and other clinicians support the concept of clinically-led commissioning, they do not believe that this expensive upheaval of the health service is needed to achieve that. If the Prime Minister really wants to put clinicians in control he should listen to what they are saying - louder and louder each day - and put this increasingly confused legislation out of its misery."
The Royal College of General Practitioners – the UK's largest medical Royal College – called for the withdrawal of the Bill in the wake of the amendments laid down in the House of Lords on Wednesday (February 1).
Despite the number and extent of the amendments, the College said it remained concerned that the Bill would cause irreparable damage to patient care and jeopardise the NHS.
Initially the College had held off from calling for wholesale withdrawal, instead writing to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley using the survey results to reiterate its concerns and provide another opportunity for changes to be made.
The subsequent responses from Earl Howe and the Health Secretary, and the amendments presented to the House of Lords, have prompted today’s decision.
RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada explained: “This decision was not taken lightly, but it is clear that the College has been left with no alternative. We have taken every opportunity to negotiate changes for the good of our patients and for the continued stability of the NHS, yet while the Government has claimed that it has made widespread concessions, our view is that the amendments have created greater confusion. We remain unconvinced that the Bill will improve the care and services we provide to our patients.
“Our position has not changed, and the concerns we expressed when this Bill was at the White Paper stage 18 months ago have still not been satisfactorily addressed. Competition, and the opening up of our health service to any qualified providers will lead not only to fragmentation of care, but also potentially to a ‘two tier’ system with access to care defined by a patient’s ability to pay.
“We support a greater role for GPs in the planning, design and delivery of services within their local communities, but as the organisation representing the views of over 44,000 GPs, we cannot support a Bill that will damage the care and services that GPs deliver to patients and ultimately bring about the demise of a unified, national health service.”
Dr Gerada called instead for the consolidation of the current organisational structure, such that PCT clusters remain, with GPs placed as the majority of the Board.
“We cannot sit back. Instead, we must once again raise our concerns in the hope that the Prime Minister will halt this damaging, unnecessary and expensive reorganisation which, in our view, risks leaving the poorest and most vulnerable in society to bear the brunt,” she added.
In a return salvo, Health Minister Simon Burns, said he was ‘disappointed’ but not surprised by the RCGP’s decision.
"It is disappointing Clare Gerada has taken this step, but it hardly comes as a surprise given her outspoken opposition to our plans to improve the NHS.”
He added: "Any reform causes controversy and there is always going to be disagreement about the best way to modernise the NHS. But only yesterday the Family Doctor Association, representing over 1000 member practices in the UK, came out in support for our plans to hand power to doctors and nurses.
"We have been carefully listening to the ideas raised as the Bill has progressed through Parliament, and as a result we tabled a series of amendments to safeguard the future of the NHS."