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Clinical commissioning group calls on PM to drop the health bill

Exclusive A pioneering CCG led by the senior GP who hosted Andrew Lansley's first public speech as health secretary has become the first in the country to urge the Prime Minister to drop the health bill.

Tower Hamlets CCG in east London, led by former BMA deputy chair Dr Sam Everington, has written to David Cameron asking him to abandon the bill following a wave of opposition from local GPs, and warning him ‘your rolling restructuring of the NHS compromises our ability to focus on what really counts'.

In a letter obtained by Pulse, the CCG claims the strides already made to improving patient care through clinically-led commissioning show that improvements could be made ‘without the bureaucracy generated by the bill'.

(Read the full letter here).

The move marks the first time a CCG has publicly called for the bill to be withdrawn, and will pile mounting pressure on the Government as ministers face demands for a series of amendments in the House of Lords. It comes after Pulse revealed last month how some commissioning leaders were concerned that the Government had ‘lost the narrative' on the reforms.

Dr Everington, who is also a GMC Council member, served as an advisor to the previous Labour government on health, but has also been a vocal supporter of the Conservative party's primary care policies.

His acclaimed Bromley-By-Bow Health centre in East London hosted Mr Lansley's first public speech as health secretary back in June 2010, after Dr Everington was introduced by the then-shadow health secretary as his ‘special guest' during a speech to the Conservative party spring conference that year. 

The letter sent this week claims the Prime Minister has wrongly interpreted GPs' commitment to their patients as evidence for their support of the bill.

It reads: ‘We support a strong role for clinical involvement in commissioning decisions that lead to better health outcomes for our patients. We do this already in Tower Hamlets.  An Act of Parliament is not needed to make this happen.'

‘You are familiar with the submissions on the long-term implications of the bill made by our professional representative organisations, the RCGP and the BMA. We share their concerns.  We add to that our own experience.

Clinicians, patients and managers in Tower Hamlets are determined to improve health and well-being, but your rolling restructuring of the NHS compromises our ability to focus on what really counts - improving quality of services for patients, and ensuring value for money during a period of financial restraint.'

‘We care deeply about the patients that we see every day and we believe the improvements we all want to see in the NHS can be achieved without the bureaucracy generated by the bill.

‘Your government has interpreted our commitment to our patients as support for the bill. It is not.

Dr Everington said: ‘We have already seen many improvements to health services in Tower Hamlets.  We believe the improvements that we all want to see in the NHS can be achieved without the bureaucracy generated by the bill.

‘Our focus is on making sure our patients get the best possible care. In Tower Hamlets we have a track record of improving health services by working closely with patients, hospitals, the council and the whole local NHS.  Improvements include more support for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes; the highest childhood vaccination rates in London; and an exemplary local out-of-hours service delivered by our GPs that is highly valued by patients.

‘Local GPs and other health professionals were very keen that we should make our opposition to these proposals clear to the Prime Minister.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'GPs in Tower Hamlets, like all GPs , will be able to take these powers to benefit their local patients, and only with the bill can we make clinical commissioning a reality for patients across the country. That is why the NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care - who represent over 11,000 primary care clinicians - support our proposals.'

'Without the bill, doctors and nurses will always run the risk of having their decisions second-guessed by the managers running primary care trusts. The bill cuts out this needless bureaucracy and hands control for care over to those who know their patients best - the doctors and nurses throughout the NHS.'