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RCGP regional representatives rebel over Gerada’s anti-health bill stance

Exclusive Regional representatives of the RCGP have debated a motion questioning college chair Dr Clare Gerada’s decision to oppose the NHS reforms, with senior figures expressing unease and at least one faculty calling on the college to do more to support GP commissioners.

Pulse has learned two RCGP Council members tabled a motion ahead of last Friday’s Council meeting raising questions over support for the college’s outright opposition. This motion was later withdrawn, but Council members said there was a wide-ranging discussion over the health bill at last week’s meeting, with ‘a lot of support’ for a reaffirmation of the RCGP’s support for clinical commissioning.

And the motion was debated ahead of the national council meeting at regional faculties, amid signs that support for Dr Gerada’s bold stance could be coming under increased pressure.

Earlier this month the RCGP became the first of the medical royal colleges to call for the health bill to be scrapped, warning it threatened ‘irreperable damage’ to patient care.

The motion, which asked RCGP Council members to ‘confirm their support for the views of the chair calling for the complete withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill’, was proposed by Dr Howard Bloom, RCGP Council member for South West Thames and a GP in Surrey, and Dr Una Coales, a nationally elected Council member and GP in Stockwell, south west London.

The motion was withdrawn before the meeting and was not voted on, due to the volume of motions on the health bill at the meeting, but Council members said it was discussed at faculty level.

Dr Bloom told Pulse his faculty thought the RCGP should be more supportive of GPs taking forward clinical commissioning locally: ‘They understood the call for the withdrawal, but we have a lot of members actively engaged in taking forward clinical commissioning and we feel that they need to be supported [by the College]. That is our position.’

He added: ‘There is a lot of support for clinician-led commissioning and there are a lot of doctors involved in shadow form taking it forward.’

‘We have got to be careful that the college supports that, and there is a general feeling that that message has been lost – there is support for clinician-led commissioning and that point has been diminished.’

Dr Coales said: ‘In my opinion, the negotiating for the medical profession regarding the health bill should be left with our medical trade union and BMA GPC negotiators and the College should instead continue to encourage, engage and support RCGP clinical commissioners whose hard work … has been slightly overlooked in all this publicity over complete withdrawal of the health bill.’

‘We are first and foremost a college promoting education, training and support for all our GP members whether in support or in opposition to the health bill. We are apolitical.’

A spokesperson from the RCGP said: ‘Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chair of council, has constantly engaged with RCGP Council and the College’s 44,000-strong membership to seek their views and advice throughout the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament.’

‘Since the White Paper and subsequent Health and Social Care Bill was announced, the College has held five Council meetings, five council executive committees, three major written consultations, three membership polls, and one national conference.’