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RCGP calls for health bill to be scrapped

The RCGP has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to formally call for the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill, citing the ‘irreparable damage' it could cause to patient care.

The college announced its decision in the wake of the amendments to the bill laid down in the House of Lords yesterday, which included making it clear the health secretary and CCGs would be responsible for maintaining a ‘comprehensive national health service'.

Despite the amendments, the college said it remained concerned that the bill will cause ‘irreparable damage to patient care and jeopardise the NHS'.

The decision comes after three quarters of respondents to a recent poll carried out by the college said they thought it appropriate to seek the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill, regardless of whether they were flanked by other medical Royal Colleges, who have so far stopped short of calling for the bill to be removed.

Pulse understands RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada was subsequently granted a deferred mandate fromthe college's council to opt for outright opposition to the bill once the amendments had been tabled, based on the wave of feeling shown in the survey.

The RCGP wrote to health secretary Andrew Lansley to reiterate its concerns and call for changes to be made following the survey, but responses from Earl Howe and the health secretary, and the subsequent amendments presented to the House of Lords, have not been sufficient to quell the college's concerns.

Dr Gerada said: ‘This decision was not taken lightly, but it is clear that the college has been left with no alternative.  We have taken every opportunity to negotiate changes for the good of our patients and for the continued stability of the NHS, yet while the Government has claimed that it has made widespread concessions, our view is that the amendments have created greater confusion. We remain unconvinced that the bill will improve the care and services we provide to our patients.'

‘The concerns we expressed when this bill was at the white paper stage 18 months ago have still not been satisfactorily addressed. Competition, and the opening up our of health service to any qualified providers, will lead not only to fragmentation of care, but also potentially to a ‘two tier' system with access to care defined by a patient's ability to pay.'  

‘We support a greater role for GPs in the planning, design and delivery of services within their local communities, but as the organisation representing the views of over 44,000 GPs, we cannot support a bill that will damage the care and services that GPs deliver to patients and ultimately bring about the demise of a unified, national health service.' 

‘Our view is that what is required now is to rapidly consolidate the current organisational structure, such that PCT clusters remain, with GPs placed as the majority of the board so that we may address the serious issues facing our NHS.'

Read Clare Gerada's full statement here