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GPC vows to ‘mitigate worst elements’ of NHS reforms as health bill passed by Parliament

The GPC will press the Government to make the health reforms work for the benefit of patients rather than private companies, now that they are poised to become law.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that flexibilities built into the Health and Social Care Bill - which was finally approved by MPs last night - gave Ministers the power to interpret the legislation in a lot of different ways.

He told Pulse: ‘Our job now is to mitigate the worst elements of these reforms. We've got to make absolutely sure they work in favour of patients and not big business.'

MPs approved final amendments to the bill after a last-gasp attempt by Labour to block the changes until a risk assessment was published. They voted 328 to 246 against shadow health secretary Andy Burnham's call to delay the reforms.

The House of Lords approved the bill on Monday after a year of debate in both houses and a reported figure of over 1,000 amendments. It could now receive Royal Assent before the parliamentary Easter recess next week.

Dr Vautrey said it was now time for GPs and consultants to work together on the "huge agenda" of implementing the reforms.

'The biggest issue facing us now is the way commissioning support services are being set up, he said. 'We're very concerned that they could become the tail wagging the CCG dog. They need to have support from within the NHS not outside it.'

He identified two key changes needed for the reforms to work. ‘The first is a cultural change right at the centre. We have to fight the requirement from the centre for CCGs to tick more and more boxes. The DH required PCTs to do that and that´s why they got so big. CCGs need to be allowed to get on with the job without directives and bureaucracy from the centre.'

'We also need a cultural change in the way CCGs work with colleagues in secondary care. Signs on this so far are good but we need to make sure we're all on the same page.'

‘Clearly the government  - including the Prime Minister himself - staked a lot of political capital on getting this legislation through. The electorate will judge them on it in a few years time.'

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum called on doctors to look to the future and do what they can to limit the bill's ‘more damaging aspects'.

In a message to BMA members Dr Meldrum said he was worried and saddened by the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Dr Meldrum said BMA lobbying had ‘a significant impact' which led to a number of positive amendments to the bill. But he added: ‘It would still be much better not to have had the Bill in the first place.

The legislation is flawed; at its core, even with amendments, it places too much emphasis on using market forces and risks greater fragmentation of our health service.'