Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada, has reacted furiously to David Cameron’s claim during Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday that doctors and nurses, and specifically the RCGP and RCN, fully back his Government’s plans for health reform. The Health and Social Care Bill was being debated in the House of Commons; it was later cleared for passage to the Lords, by a margin of 65 votes.
Dr Gerada said: “To reiterate our position; the College supports putting clinicians at the centre of planning health services. However, we continue to have a number of concerns about the Government’s reforms, issues which we believe may damage the NHS or limit the care we are able to provide for our patients. These concerns have been outlined and reiterated pre- and post-pause.
“As a College we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and to massively increased costs in implementing this new system. As independent research demonstrates, the NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world and we must keep it that way.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter added: “While we acknowledge that the Government have listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge.”
GPs and medical and nursing colleagues are also furious about comments made by health minister Lord Howe in his speech to private sector healthcare groups yesterday, apparently in support of private providers. The BBC reported that he told delegates: “To be honest I don’t think it should matter one jot whether a patient is looked after by a hospital or a medical professional from the public, private or charitable sector”, as long as care remains free at the point of delivery.
Lord Howe is the minister who will back the Bill during its passage through the House of Lords, where it is expected to meet further resistance. BMA chair Dr Laurence Buckman told the BBC: “Lord Howe’s comments betray how deep the Government’s misguided obsession with competition goes. Encouraging private providers in, in this way, to compete against other providers will only make it harder for clinicians to work together effectively – and it’s that, not competition, which improves patient care and the cost-effectiveness of the NHS.”