The RCGP has launched another survey of its members to test the water on their position to the NHS reforms, in what its chair Dr Clare Gerada called a ‘critical moment’ for the College and general practice.
The survey is to be used by the RCGP to help formulate their next steps as the health bill goes through the final stages of its passage through Parliament in the New Year.
It comes after college chair Dr Clare Gerada and other senior GPs met with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham last week to discuss his plans for a ‘plan B’ that would scrap the health bill and avoid mass upheaval to NHS.
The move marks the third time the College has surveyed its members on the NHS reforms, and comes ahead of further discussions with other royal colleges regarding the health bill early next year. In October, more than 70% of RCGP members said the Health and Social Care Bill should be scrapped.
In a letter to members accompanying the survey, RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said: ‘This short survey is designed to test out member opinion on recent developments in relation to the bill and how the College could respond.’
‘I feel it is important to share this with all our members in the UK, not only to keep you up-to-date with the issues, but to gather as many of your views as possible as we prepare to take important decisions for both the College and the future of the NHS.’
Dr Gerada added: ‘We have reached a critical moment in the College’s work to take forward our profession’s concerns about the Heath and Social Care Bill. When we look back in years to come, I want there to be no misunderstanding of the position the College has taken or criticism that we did not do enough to inform and engage members or to protect patients and the NHS.’
‘As a profession we must now decide on a way forward which reflects our unique understanding of how these changes will impact on the health system we work in and the patients in our care. Should the College decide to call for the bill to be withdrawn, there is no guarantee that this will be successful.’
‘Nonetheless, it is my view, and that of many others, that stopping the bill now, placing GPs in the majority on the boards of the PCT Clusters/NCB outposts and focusing on addressing the serious financial crises facing the NHS, is the safest way forward for patients and communities.’
Dr Gerada also insisted that the College would always be politically impartial despite the recent meeting with Mr Burnham.
‘The College is, and will always remain, party politically neutral in its stance on the reforms. We have been working with Government ministers and the Department of Health team to ensure that the voices of GPs and their patients are heard as the implementation of the reforms progresses, and this is something we will continue to do. However, this does not prevent the College taking a professional stance on whether to support or oppose changes that affect us, patients and the NHS so directly.’
RCGP members are able to respond to the survey up to 6 January.