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GP group mounts full opposition to health reforms

Published on 03/02/12 at 11:11am

The Royal College of GPs is urging the government to scrap its health reform agenda, dealing another blow to the Health Bill.

The College, which represents 34,000 GPs in England, said the overhaul had to be stopped because it threatened to cause ‘irreparable damage’ to care.

Its chairman Clare Gerada told the BBC: “The decision was not taken lightly, but it is clear that the College has been left with no alternative.

“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: “Patients will find their care will be fragmented, it will be on different sites, it won’t join up, it will be difficult to hand over care and it will be phenomenally expensive to keep track of all these competing parts of the NHS.”

The College has long questioned the need for reform and has in the past spoken out against the plans, but this is the first time it has called for the Bill to be scrapped. 

This will be especially damaging for the government as the College represents GPs, the people at the heart of the reforms.

This also adds to the outright opposition to the Bill coming from the royal colleges of nurses and midwives, which last month said it could no longer support the reforms.  

The Health and Social Care Bill is looking to abolish current NHS managers and replace them with GPs and other healthcare professionals.

These new bodies, known as clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), will be given responsibility for the NHS budget from 2013 if the Bill becomes law. 

It returns to the House of Lords next week for further scrutiny, and is planned to be passed into law by April, albeit with a number of concessions.

These include a confirmation that the health secretary will maintain overall responsibility of the NHS, and that the new economic regulator Monitor will encourage the integration of services.

Health minister Simon Burns told the BBC that the RCGP had previously supported at least some elements of the Bill, and was ‘baffled’ by their opposition.

Doctors’ union welcomes opposition

The chairman of the doctors’ union the BMA, Dr Hamish Meldrum, supported the College’s decision to come out against the Bill.

He 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.”

The BMA has also long opposed the Bill and last year called for major amendments to the plans during the government’s listening exercise, although it had initially said it would support the plans when they were first revealed in 2010.

Dr Meldrum added: “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,” he concluded.

Ben Adams 

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