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Invite BMA and RCGP back to the table, GP commissioners urge Cameron after Downing Street summit

Exclusive: GP commissioning leaders who attended yesterday's Downing Street summit have urged the Prime Minister to invite dissenting voices back to the table to discuss the NHS reforms, after the RCGP, BMA and other health bill critics were controversially excluded from talks.

NAPC chair Dr Charles Alessi, one of four GPs to attend the meeting, said David Cameron demonstrated during the summit that the Government was determined to press ahead with its reform agenda.

But Dr Alessi warned it was vital dialogue continued with all representative bodies, regardless of their standpoint on the changes.

‘The more people are involved in the discussion, the more likely it is we'll get a good result,' he said.

Dr Steve Kell, chair of Bassetlaw CCG, who was also present, said there was a ‘frank discussion' at yesterday's meeting on how to ensure competition does not overrule integration, and added it was vital that all voices were heard.

‘I'm not a politician, but I think it's really important to engage with the BMA and RCGP,' he said.

Yesterday the RCGP said it understood the meeting ‘could be one in a series of similar meetings to which we would hope to be invited', although it has yet to be confirmed if future meetings will be held. The BMA accused the Government of ‘selective listening'.

It comes as embattled health secretary Andrew Lansley wrote to CCG leaders to reassure them that the Government planned to liberate and not constrain their power to commission under the new system.

In a letter to CCGs, Mr Lansley said commissioners would not be forced to subject services to competition, or be dictated to by clinical senates, and said the final choice would always rest with commissioners.

‘I know many of you may have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or to put services out to tender. This is absolutely not the case. You as commissioners should decide when and how competition should be used. Monitor would not have the power to force you to put services out to competition.'

On clinical senates, Mr Lansley said: ‘They will not be statutory bodies and they will have no role in the day-to-day work of CCGs.'

Dr Alessi said Mr Cameron gave ‘a consistent message' at the summit that the reforms were ‘about liberating clinical commissioners'. ‘It is very clear that the bill is something the Government feels strongly about. If there were any doubts, I think the doubts don't exist anymore.'

Dr Donal Hynes, a GP in Bridgwater, Somerset and co vice-chair of NHS Alliance, who was also present at the meeting, said the Prime Minister was confronted head on about opposition to the plans, but was of the belief that much of the anger stemmed from ‘myths'.

‘A lot of people expressed that morale wasn't great. [Mr Cameron] feels an awful lot of it is laying the myths of the concerns to rest. He was looking for advice on how to assuage those fears.'

Dr Hynes said he left reassured that localism will not be overridden by central control.

‘There was a discussion about preserving localism - he seemed to understand the issue, and gave reassurance that that was the whole concept of clinical commissioning.'

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