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98% of RCGP members support joint call for health bill to be scrapped

RCGP members have overwhelmingly backed moves for the Health and Social Care Bill to be scrapped, with morethan 98% of respondents to a new poll calling on the College to seek the withdrawal of the bill alongside other Royal colleges.

The RCGP survey, which polled nearly 2,600 GPs, was announced last month by chair Dr Clare Gerada to test the water on the College’s position on the NHS  reforms.

More than 98% of respondents said they either strongly supported (66%) or supported (32%) asking for the health bill to be withdrawn as part of a joint approach with other medical Royal colleges.

Even without joining forces with other colleges, more than 90% of respondents still said that they either strongly supported (56%) or supported (37%) the College in proceeding alone in calling for the health bill’s withdrawal.

Overall opposition to the health bill remained largely constant since the last RCGP survey in October, but 60% of respondents said they felt more negative about the impact of the health bill on the NHS than they did when the College’s last survey in the autumn, with only 5% feeling more positive.

Less than 14% of respondents said that they believed the reforms would result in better patient care, while nearly 60% said the reforms would not result in more cost-effective deliver of care.

Nearly 90% said that the reforms would increase private sector involvement in the NHS, and more than three quarters said that the reforms would not reduce bureaucracy in the health service.

The findings have prompted the RCGP to write to health secretary Andrew Lansley reiterating its concerns and calling for changes to be made to the health bill. These include:

  • The Secretary of State’s existing duty to provide, or secure the provision of, a comprehensive health service throughout England, must be retained
  • Clarification on the face of the bill that commissioners will not be required to open up services to competition unless it can be demonstrated that this would be in the patient’s best interests and compatible with the requirements of patient safety and the ability to provide integrated care
  • The introduction of  further safeguards on education and training, including robust mechanisms to ensure the provision of sufficient postgraduate training places, and the long term retention of postgraduate deaneries

RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada said: ‘The headline results of our latest straw poll are of course very revealing, but there is also very strong support for continuing to work with the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and other parties, to press for changes, and this work will continue over the next few weeks.’

‘We are not a political organisation, but these results speak volumes about how our members – across the UK – feel about these reforms, and the effect they will have on the NHS, and the care we provide to our patients.’

‘Our list of recommendations and concerns is not new – we have been asking for these to be considered since the bill came into being, and said as much when we wrote to the Prime Minister in the summer.’

‘Our members have once more made it clear that very real concerns with the bill remain. This survey makes it clear that if any changes made are not strong enough to address these concerns, there is strong support within the profession not only for us to call for more change urgently but also, should the situation warrant it, for the withdrawal of the bill itself.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘This is a flawed and unrepresentative survey. It allows people to vote as many times as they want and it includes views from people all over the UK, when the Bill is only relevant to England.

‘We believe that there is strong support for our reforms from large sections of GPs across the country. A recent open letter, from NHS Alliance and NAPC, which represents 6,000 practices covering 75% of patients in England, reinforced support for the Health and Social Care Bill. We will continue to work with everyone in the NHS to make the improvements that are necessary to improve care for patients.

‘We have already addressed the concerns raised by the RCGP, including making clear we are willing to put beyond doubt the Secretary of State remains accountable overall for the NHS.’