NHS reform: GPs and physiotherapists urges scrapping

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But the RCGP said they did not go far enough and it was now time for the whole bill to be withdrawn.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

Health Minister Simon Burns said he found the criticism from GPs ''baffling''

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.

Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Clare Gerada: ''The bill is a mess''

"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."

NHS reforms timeline

  • July 2010 - White Paper published, setting out plans which involve giving GPs control of the budget while encouraging greater competition
  • January 2011 - Bill underpinning the changes gets its first readings in the House of Commons
  • March 2011 - Lib Dem spring conference votes for radical change to "damaging" plans amid mounting concerns among health groups
  • April 2011 - Bill paused so that government can carry out a two-month "listening exercise" to address criticisms
  • June/July 2011 - Listening exercise leads to a series of changes to the bill, limiting competition and improving accountability
  • September 2011 - Bill makes it to the Lords, leading to more amendments being tabled; expected to return to the Commons in spring 2012
  • October 2011 - National board established in shadow form to oversee new system as groups of GPs start piloting new arrangements
  • April 2013 - Board and GP groups to formally take control of the system

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Three cheers for the GPs of England. They are standing up for a world-class health service, which a coalition government is in the process of dismantling. Let us remember that nobody actually voted for this coalition, which is behaving as if it has an overwhelming public mandate. Well done, GPs. Save our NHS from this dreadful bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I worked in the NHS for several decades.It was very apparent that by the late 90's there was less chasing waiting lists as happened under the Tories & more concern that patients with the greatest need were treated as a matter of urgency. The Labour party made mistakes on policies elsewhere (economy, Gulf war etc) but they did very noticably reinvigerate the NHS after decades of Tory underfunding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    I'm a GP appraiser, I've just come back from my 5th appraisal of a GP who is going to retire early because of these reforms. I have no idea where these enthusiastic GPs are supposed to be but they're not round here!
    Disillusioned GPs, distracted unproductive PCTs,the very aims of the bill are getting forgotten: no integration between health and social care,no Public Health England - a disaster

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I think I'm one of the few who's actually read the whole Bill. It is not a charter for privatisation; it is not setting an agenda for USA-type healthcare; it is not changing the "free at the point of delivery" cornerstone of the NHS. It could strip away a lot of PCT bureaucracy and hospital 'spanish practices' and increase contestability and accountability.
    Calm down. Check your facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    These groups speaking against the proposed government changes to the NHS - GP's, nurses, midwivies & now physiotherapists - are not known for their radical views but are deeply conventional organisations, tending to have the best interests of patients at heart.If these organisations are speaking out because they fear for patient safety, there is good reason to fear & mistrust government 'reforms'.


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