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Gerada under fire over health bill talks with Labour

Exclusive RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada has been criticised for holding talks with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham over a ‘plan B’ alternative to the Health and Social Care Bill, as council members claim the meetings compromise the College’s politically neutral stance.

The RCGP was among around 40 health organisations at an initial meeting with Mr Burnham before Christmas to discuss opposition to the health bill, and a second meeting was held with the medical Royal colleges this Wednesday, with Dr Gerada attending both meetings in person.

It comes as an RCGP poll of 2,600 GPs this week finding that 98% support the college calling for the health bill to be withdrawn as part of a joint approach with other medical royal colleges – and 90% supported it calling for the health bill to be withdrawn even without wider support.

Dr Gerada told Pulse that she was now unlikely to attend further meetings with Mr Burnham amid concerns the college could be seen as too closely aligned with the Labour Party.

She said: ‘I don’t think there will probably be another meeting with Andy Burnham. It’s been a good catalyst to get all the medical Royal colleges together but I wouldn’t think it is appropriate for us to meet again through him.’

‘There’s a dividing line between talking to them, and talking with them. The most important thing is to make it work for patients.’

Dr Una Coales, a GP in Stockwell, south London and RCGP council member, said the talks with Mr Burnham were ‘not appropriate.’

She said: ‘It’s good if she has decided not have these meetings.’

‘The College is supposed to be political party neutral, and not really supposed to be involved in politics.’

The BMA was also represented at the initial meeting with Mr Burnham before Christmas, but an official attended and no senior doctors were present.