Health

NHS reform: GPs and physiotherapists urges scrapping

  • 3 February 2012
  • From the section Health
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Image caption The reforms apply only to the NHS in England

Physiotherapist leaders have joined the Royal College of GPs in calling for the health bill in England to be scrapped, increasing pressure on the government.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, which has over 50,000 members, said the views of patients and professionals had been ignored.

The college, which represents 34,000 GPs in England, said the overhaul threatened to damage NHS care.

A health minister said he was "baffled" by the RCGP's criticisms.

The interventions come despite further amendments being made to the bill on Wednesday.

The changes include making it clear the health secretary would retain ultimate control over the NHS, and strengthening the requirement of the regulator to ensure the different providers competing for patients also work together to provide seamless services for patients.

They were put forward in response to concerns raised by the House of Lords and will be debated next week.

'No alternative'

But the RCGP said they did not go far enough and it was now time for the whole bill to be withdrawn.

It follows a similar call by the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives.

But all three of these are unions, which prompted the government to suggest they were motivated by the dispute over pay and pensions - whereas the RCGP is part of the professional arm of the health service which sets standards.

It is also significant because GPs are widely thought of as one of the main beneficiaries of the reforms, as they are supposed to get more control over how NHS funds are spent.

But the college said they could no longer work with government on the bill because its concerns over competition and bureaucracy had not been addressed.

It also said the overhaul would hamper the ability of the health service to make the savings it has been asked to in the coming years to cope with factors such as the ageing population and rising cost of new drugs.

RCGP chairman Dr Clare Gerada said: "The decision was not taken lightly, but it is clear that the college has been left with no alternative.

"We cannot sit back. 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."

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the bill would "turn the National Health Service into thousands of different health services, all competing for the same patients, the same knee, the same brain, the same heart.

"Patients will find their care will be fragmented, it will be on different sites, it won't join up, it will be difficult to hand over care and it will be phenomenally expensive to keep track of all these competing parts of the NHS."

Like many of the medical royal colleges, the RCGP has to date been critical of the plans.

But it had until now been saying it was willing to work with ministers to improve them.

The entire medical royal college community has discussed coming out en masse to oppose the plans, but a draft statement that was drawn up last week was never signed off.

The BBC understands a number of other colleges are currently discussing whether to toughen their opposition.

Dr Helena Johnson, chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "Together with many other health professionals, we have tried to engage constructively and make sensible suggestions throughout the bill's passage through Parliament.

"But time and time again, the views of patients and health professionals have been ignored. The government seems determined to press ahead with these reforms."

Health Minister Simon Burns told the BBC that the RCGP had previously supported at least some elements of the bill.

But he added: "Now we have this constant criticism and I find it in one way baffling, because it's not representative of what I hear GPs up and down the country saying, now that they're beginning to engage in having the powers to determine the care that needs to be commissioned for their patients."

He added: "We have been carefully listening to the ideas raised as the bill has progressed through Parliament and, as a result, we tabled a series of amendments to safeguard the future of the NHS."

The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is also facing a hearing in March where the Information Commissioner will seek to force Mr Lansley to release a secret government report on the risks of the NHS reforms.

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