Government escapes rebellion by medics over NHS

Doctor The health bill is working its way through Parliament

The government appears to have escaped a rebellion by the medical establishment over its controversial NHS reforms in England.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges had been preparing to release a statement saying it could not support the health bill in its current form.

The academy represents 20 royal colleges, professional bodies that govern standards in the health service.

But it withdrew from the move after ministers made last-ditch phone calls.

A number of the larger colleges had also started having doubts about the wisdom of taking such a political stance - unlike the health unions the royal colleges tend to stay more neutral, partly due to their charitable status.

The statement was discussed at a meeting of the academy on Tuesday night.

It said: "The medical royal colleges and faculties of the academy continue to have significant concerns over a number of aspects of the health bill and are disappointed that more progress has not been made in directly addressing the issues we have raised.

"The academy and medical royal colleges are not able to support the bill as it currently stands.


"Unless the proposals are modified the academy believes the bill may widen rather than lessen health inequalities and that unnecessary competition will undermine the provision of high quality integrated care to patients."

But it soon became clear the Royal College of Surgeons was not prepared to put its name to the statement.

By Wednesday ministers, led by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, along with senior officials were telephoning the presidents of the colleges asking them to reconsider releasing the statement.

The provisional plan had been to publish the statement late on Wednesday morning, ahead of Prime Minister's questions.

But that did not happen. On Thursday night the academy held talks with the three major unions - the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives.

Those groups have already called for the bill to be scrapped.

But after the talks finished a joint statement was issued which said there had been a "useful exchange of information and an agreement to continue the dialogue".

The BBC now understands it is almost certain that the statement will not be released.

In the autumn of 2011, the college said it had serious concerns about the proposals, particularly over accountability, competition and training.

Officials from a number of the larger and most influential colleges have indicated to the BBC they were not prepared to take a tougher stance than that now.

If the statement had been released, it could have had a potentially devastating effect on the government's plans.

All attention would then have turned to the Lib Dems and whether they would support the bill when it returned to the Commons in the spring.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I am proud that the UK has the NHS, however to retain the NHS for future generations it does need reform. The final decision on reforms must be taken by the Government, not the Unions. It will be the Government of the day who will be held responsible for any changes in the NHS, not the Unions. I support Cameron on the NHS and Welfare reforms he is making, Labour would just carry on regardless!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The NHS doesn't need 'reform', it needs for the govt to stop treating it like a business and find someone who understands how to make healthcare efficient. You can't treat NHS staff like employees when it's policy to pay low wages so that people will become nurses etc. out of conscience and not for financial reward. This is the jewel in the crown of the Welfare State: don't let Cameron destroy it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The NHS is an old fashioned, monolithic organisation, steeped in bureaucracy; not unlike the old Soviet Union. It needs reform badly. I cannot think of any other country whose health services have adopted or retained the UK NHS model. Admirable though it was in its inception and early years, it has to change its ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Take no notice of vested interests like the employees of the NHS. Do not forget doctors were against it ever being set up, were they right then? So why believe them or other groups like nurses, all with vested interests in the system as it is now?

    It is a public service, not an employee service. Time for change in culture. They have huge pay, so adapt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Something in the NHS needs to change but it is like Whitehall in that it is a tanker which is very difficult to turn around. I like the principles behind Lansleys' proposals but he will have a fight on his hands with the many vested interests in keeping the status quo. Patients are suffering though so he should fight on.


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