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RCGP urges PM to involve College in health bill implementation

The RCGP has written to the Prime Minister urging the Government to involve the College more in implementing the NHS reforms, in a move health bill supporters labelled a ‘shift' in the College's stance to one of ‘constructive engagement'.

The College was controversially left out of a Downing Street summit to discuss the health bill last month, after publically calling for the Bill to be withdrawn.

But in an appeal to be brought in from the cold on talks, RCGP Dr Clare Gerada, a fierce critic of Andrew Lansley's health reforms, has written to David Cameron requesting that he involve the RCGP ‘in discussions concerning the key regulations implementing [the] Bill'.

Dr Gerada said the RCGP ‘remains consistent' in their desire to see the bill withdrawn, but said the College wanted to ‘find an acceptable way forward' in working with the Government.

But supporters of the reforms said the letter was evidence of a shifting in the RCGP's stance from outright opposition to one of ‘constructive engagement.'

In the letter, which can be read in full here, Dr Gerada tells Mr Cameron the time had come for the RCGP and the Government ‘to restate our similarities rather than continuously focus on our differences' and ‘work together to make the health service secure, stable, and safe.'

Dr Gerada said: ‘As you know, we continue to believe that the Health and Social Care Bill risks leading to negative outcomes, and retain our belief that cost effective improvements could have been achieved without the need for structural change. However, the last 18 months have polarised the debate and we feel it is now the time to restate our similarities rather than continuously focus on our differences.'

‘I am therefore writing to you in the hope that we can find an acceptable way forward in which the Royal College of General Practitioners is able to work with the Government towards the future stability of the NHS in England and where we can help you find a way through the tensions to achieve a better health service for our patients.

‘We believe that this should include our involvement in discussions concerning the key regulations implementing Bill, for example under Clause 73 on procurement, patient choice and competition, and that these should also be subject to the affirmative procedure. In addition, we would seek the opportunity to input fully into the formulation of the NHS Mandate, given the critical role that this will play in establishing the framework within which the NHS Commissioning Board will operate.'

Writing on Twitter, former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, now a Conservative MP, praised Dr Gerada for her ‘constructive engagement.' ‘Good to see shift to constructive engagement from RCGP to PM…GPs can deliver best care for patients.'

Read the letter here