The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called for a complete withdrawal of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
The decision was made after amendments made by the Government failed to satisfy the concerns of doctors about the impact the Bill will have on the health service and levels of patient care.
Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP Chair, says the decision to call for the Bill’s withdrawal was not “taken lightly” but the College was left with “no alternative” after its worries had failed to be addressed.
The move by the RCGP comes only days after editors of the BMJ, Health Service Journal and the Nursing Times warned that the health service would need to be reformed in five years if the measures proposed by Andrew Lansley were introduced.
The British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has also publically called for the Bill to be withdrawn.
The Government said earlier this week that a series of amendments would be made to the legislation after emerging cross-party opposition in the House of Lords. These include that the health secretary will keep ultimate control over the NHS, that Monitor would be given more power and that medical research would be encouraged to compete with foreign counterparts.
But the changes were not enough to satisfy doctors who, in the last of three surveys conducted by the RCGP on the matter, have voted for the Bill to be withdrawn in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.
The RCGP initially held off from calling for wholesale changes and the complete withdrawal of the Bill. Instead, it communicated with Andrew Lansley the concerns of its members using its survey results. But Dr Gerada said that despite the Government’s concessions on areas of concern, it has created “greater confusion” both for workers within the NHS and for patients. “We remain unconvinced that the Bill will improve the care and services we provide to our patients,” she said.
“Our position has not changed, and 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.”
Dr Gerada says the College supports a greater involvement for GPs in the “planning, design and delivery of services” but the majority of its 44,000 members cannot support something that will “ultimately bring about the demise of a unified, national health service”.
“We cannot sit back,” Dr Gerada said. “Instead, we must once again raise our concerns in the hope that the Prime Minister will halt this damaging, unnecessary and expensive reorganisation which, in our view, risks leaving the poorest and most vulnerable in society to bear the brunt.
“We will continue to do everything we can, both as a College and in partnership with our colleagues in the Academy of Royal Colleges, our nursing colleagues and across the wider health and social care sectors, to bring about change for the good of our patients and preserve the principles of the NHS that has served millions of patients so well for over 60 years – a universal healthcare service, free at the point of need.”
The BMA backed the RCGP’s decision. Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the BMA, says that the measure “scotches, once and for all, the Government’s claims that there is professional support for this deeply flawed, damaging and unnecessary legislation”.