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Gerada hits back after PM’s claim the RCGP ‘supports’ health bill

The Prime Minister has clashed with RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada after claiming in the House of Commons that the college was fully behind the Government's proposed reforms to the NHS.

The remarkable claim, made as MPs prepare to vote on the health bill and coming just two days after the RCGP warning the legislation could 'destablise the NHS', prompted immediate rebuttals from Dr Gerada and other medical colleges.

During Prime Minister's Question Time, David Cameron claimed ‘people working in the health service' supported the Government's reforms and said the RCGP, the Royal College of Physicians and nurses all backed the health bill.

Responding to claims from opposition leader Ed Miliband that the health profession is against the reforms, Mr Cameron said: ‘Let me quote him what the man his Government plucked from the NHS to run the DH, Lord Darzi, said about these reforms.

'"‘The proposals from the NHS Future Forum, have recast these reforms in the right direction and are to be welcomed."'

'Now you've got the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, the nurses, people working in the Health Service all supporting the changes we are making.'

The PM's claim comes after Dr Gerada joined the heads of the BMA, Royal College of Nursing and other health unions in signing a letter to The Times which warned the reforms could ‘destabilise the NHS'.

Following Mr Cameron's comments, Dr Gerada said: ‘To reiterate our position; the college supports putting clinicians at the centre of planning health services. However, we continue to have a number of concerns about the government's reforms, issues which we believe may damage the NHS or limit the care we are able to provide for our patients. These concerns have been outlined and reiterated pre- and post-pause.'

‘As a college we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and to massively increased costs in implementing this new system.'

The Royal College of Physicians also released a statement, saying they also would like to see changes to the health bill as it stands.

Dr Richard Thompson, president of the RCP, said: ‘The listening exercise improved the Health and Social Care Bill, but there are still areas that need to be changed.'

'We welcome the mandatory involvement of specialist doctors and nurses in commissioning for this will help commissioning bodies make informed local decisions about patient care. However, the proposal that they should be from outside the commissioning area is impractical and will mean that they will lack the local knowledge that should improve decision making.'  

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: ‘While we acknowledge that the Government have listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge.'

‘At a time when the NHS needs to find £20 billion in efficiencies, tackle waste, work harder to prevent ill health and deal with an aging population, we are telling MPs that this bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care.'

'This fragmentation risks making inequalities worse, and preventing health providers from collaborating in the interests of patients. We must avoid a situation where existing NHS providers are left with expensive areas of care while private providers are able to "cherry pick" the services which can be delivered easily.'

Watch RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada speaking about her concerns on the health bill today