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Labour urges GP leaders to back 'plan B' for NHS

The Labour Party has held a meeting of senior GPs and medical leaders to ask for their support for a ‘plan B' for the NHS, to scrap the health bill and avoid mass upheaval to the health service.

Last night shadow health secretary Andy Burnham met with representatives from around 40 health organisations, including the RCGP and BMA, to scope out medical backing for a campaign to scrap the health bill and instead introduce measures to ‘stabilise' the NHS.

Reports suggested that Mr Burnham tabled the plans after receiving advice from the House of Commons' library which backed his view that CCGs can still take on commissioning responsibility without the legislation in the health bill.

Among meeting attendees were Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP, and Dr Kailash Chand, a high profile opponent to the health bill and a prominent ex-GP. Despite the BMA recently hardening its stance on the health bill, no senior doctors from the BMA or GPC attended, with a representative sent in their place.

Sources at the meeting said Mr Burnham had asked medical leaders to consider whether they would back the ‘plan B' proposals in coming weeks ahead of a second meeting in January.

Despite voicing public concerns over the bill, the BMA and RCGP's political independence means it is unclear if they will lend their support to a Labour-driven initiative. Pulse understands that the RCGP is likely to canvas members' views on the health bill in January to gauge the strength of opposition among its membership.

GPs in attendance said that the meeting highlighted the concerns over the health bill among all sectors of the medical profession.

Dr Kailash Chand, chair of NHS Tyneside and Glossop and a former BMA Council member, said: 'This is not a political issue. The reasons we attended are that we care about our profession and we all care about what will happen in the NHS.'

'We were not there to support Labour or oppose the Conservatives. For us, this was the fact that we as a profession have deep, deep care for what happens to our colleagues and our patients.'

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP and a GP in Kennington, said the RCGP will be considering the issues raised by Mr Burnham in coming weeks and will hold discussions with other royal colleges regarding the health bill in the new year.

She told Pulse: ‘It was good to be able to share views with the sister Royal Colleges and to understand that we are all concerned over exactly the same things in the bill. The difference is how we approach it.'

A BMA spokesperson refused to comment on the meeting. She said: 'We meet with the Government and the other political parties on a regular basis and discussions are always confidential.'

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