28 Jan 2012

Don’t derail NHS reforms’, senior GPs warn

Health and Social Care Correspondent

In a letter rejecting the BMA’s “blanket opposition” to the new health and social care bill, senior doctors say the NHS will be in “peril” if government health reforms are derailed.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has faced repeated opposition to his ambitious plans to undertake the largest shake-up of the service in its history.

More than 50 GPs involved in new commissioning groups that will have control of NHS budgets under the changes were critical of the British Medical Association’s policy of “blanket opposition” to the health and social care bill.

The group claims previous reforms have not gone far enough and the health service has consequently “paid the price”.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, it states: “The risks of derailing the development of clinical commissioning must not be under estimated.

“Without strong clinical leadership and the co-ordinated efforts of local clinicians the NHS itself may be in peril; local services can only be improved if we all pull together.”

The NHS Alliance, which describes itself as “an independent non-political organisation proud to be at the forefront of clinically led commissioning”, is behind the letter, the newspaper said.

As well as the BMA, the Royal College of Nurses and the Royal College of Midwives have opposed the proposals, which David Cameron “paused” in the face of public opposition.

“Blanket opposition to the NHS reforms by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses is not representative of the views of GPs who, like us, already lead CCGs, and the large numbers of GPs and nurses who support us,” the letter adds.

“In many parts of England, CCGs are already showing effective leadership in their local health systems. This brings frontline clinical experience and the views of local people into the NHS.”

Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, pointed out, however, that last time they had surveyed their members, 2,600 had responded and 90 per cent had had serious concerns about the NHS reforms. Dr Gerada said that 56 heads of clinical commissioning groups was small in light of the increasing opposition.

And Channel 4 News has now learned that the required number of signatures has been collected and sent to the Royal College of Physicians asking for an extraordinary general meeeting ove rthe NHS Bill and also asking the RCP to survey its membership.

This comes off the back of an agreement by the Faculty of Public Health to ask its membership for its views on the reforms and last week the Royal College of Radiologists released a statement saying that given their widespread concerns over “many serious and as yet unresolved issues”, they could not support and “must continue to opppose” the passage of the bill.

And a Yougov poll in the Sunday Times also shows that 65 per cent of NHS workers want the bill withdrawn, 66 per cent believe it will make the NHS worse, and 84 per cent are concerned about the role of the private sector.

It is also clear that the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges came close to opposing the bill last week but backed away from it apparently after a phone call from Mr Lansley’s office to the presidents of the colleges.