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Field calls for summit with BMA and RCGP to win support for health bill

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: The BMA and RCGP will be invited for talks as part of a bid to shatter the ‘myths and misunderstandings' among critics of the Government's health reforms, says former RCGP chair Professor Steve Field.

Professor Field, who will lead a nationwide ‘listening exercise' over the next eight weeks as the head of a new so-called NHS Future Panel, told Pulse said he would immediately be seeking talks with the RCGP and the BMA to try to find ways to amend the bill enough to win over opponents, without destroying its core aims.

Next week the panel will reveal the names of 40 GPs and other clinicians who will be appointed to a forum to advise the panel, with a series of events to be announced across the country also involving grassroots GPs.

Professor Field, who has been a leading supporter of the reforms, describing the bill as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity', said: ‘I've been assured by the Prime Minister that this is a genuine exercise of listening and engaging in order to let the Government reflect and then improve the bill.

‘Clearly there are major concerns. Many of them border myth and misunderstanding but there are some genuine concerns.

‘I've been given great support by Andrew Lansley who is in a difficult position and has been for the last few weeks. I have been assured that he, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister want this exercise to be open and honest and that's what I plan to do.

'I have my own personal views but I have always been someone who is prepared to be swayed by the evidence and I am going into this to listen to what people say.'

Professor Field said a key priority would be to arrange talks with his successor, Dr Clare Gerada, who has savaged the listening exercise as a waste of time and questioned whether it is a sham exercise.

‘The college has a crucial role to play in this,' he said. ‘I will be looking to hold meetings with the RCGP and the BMA on top of the other events that are announced next week. People have been trying to suggest there is some divide between Clare and I, but Clare was my deputy and she is one of my best friends. We are great mates and our values are identical.'

Alongside Professor Field on the main panel will be Julie Moore, University Hospitals Birmingham chief executive; Kathy McLean, NHS East Midlands medical director; Geoff Alltimes, chief executive of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

Professor Steve Field: seeking talks with BMA and the college Professor Steve Field: seeking talks with BMA and the college