NHS changes: Critics 'not invited' to PM's meeting

David Cameron addresses staff at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey on 6 April 2011 The prime minister is convinced that changes to the NHS are needed

Some of the fiercest critics of the planned NHS reforms in England say they have not been invited to a meeting about the changes with David Cameron.

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, which want the bill to be withdrawn, say they have not been asked to Monday's event.

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of failing to listen to the experts.

Downing Street would not disclose who had been invited to the meeting.

A spokeswoman said only that it was "a range of national healthcare organisations and clinical commissioning groups".

The BMA said in a statement: "If there is such an event, it would seem odd if the major bodies representing health professionals were not included."

The prime minister is insisting he will press ahead with the reforms despite widespread criticism.

Under the proposals, family doctors will have more control over their budgets and there will be a greater role for the private sector.

Dr Clare Gerada, Royal College of GPs: "Not to invite us... I'm very surprised"

But the government has had difficulties getting the bill through the House of Lords and - despite offering more than 100 concessions - still faces strong opposition.

Among the bodies calling for the bill to be withdrawn is the Royal College of Nursing, which said it was not aware of having received an invitation to Monday's meeting.

The Royal College of GPs also says it is not invited, which its chairwoman, Clare Gerada, said was a great shame given it represented the largest body of GPs in England.

'Work together'

She said: "I'm surprised because at this sort of time we need to work together.

"We've all got to work together to make the NHS better and whatever happens to these reforms, we have to work to make sure our patients continue to get a very good service from their health care."

A controversial bill

  • The Health and Social Care Bill is one of the flagship pieces of legislation from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government
  • GPs and other clinicians are to be given much more responsibility for NHS spending in England and greater competition with the private sector encouraged
  • The plans were put on hold last spring after opposition from MPs and peers. Labour warned of privatisation at the expense of patient care.
  • After a "listening exercise" some changes were made and the revised bill cleared its next Commons stage
  • But when the bill was in the Lords before Christmas it faced mounting opposition and the royal colleges of nurses and midwives joined those who opposed the bill outright
  • Labour is calling for the bill to be dropped, but a series of fresh amendments have been put forward aimed at tackling critics' concerns

Mr Miliband said at the Welsh Labour conference: "You don't get progress on the NHS by shutting the door of Downing Street on doctors, nurses and patients' groups. It's not the actions of a prime minister to exclude from an NHS meeting the people who are the experts on the health service."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "This has all the hallmarks of an event thrown together in a last-ditch desperate bid to shore up collapsing support for the bill."

He suggested the prime minister had snubbed some of the groups because he "wouldn't like what they've got to say".

However, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "This forms part of the government's ongoing dialogue with health practitioners about the implementation of these reforms."

On Friday, members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health joined several Royal Medical Colleges, including the Royal College of GPs, in calling for the bill to be scrapped.

Unions, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives are among those who also want it to be withdrawn.

Earlier this week Downing Street insisted ministers were fully behind the reforms and rejected suggestions that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley should be sacked.

Mr Cameron said on Sunday he strongly supported the founding principles of the NHS, including "health care for all, free at the point of use, unrelated to the ability to pay".

More than 142,000 people, including footballer Rio Ferdinand, have signed an e-petition calling for the bill to be dropped.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    As a nurse I can tell you what happens when you get rid of admin staff and managers - I have to do it
    Here here! I'm proud to be a manager in the NHS because I know that what I do frees up clinical staff to do what they're there to do.

    It's idiocy to suggest we don't need managers in the NHS. You wouldn't get very far in business without them and the NHS is no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Where is the evidence that these reforms are going to help? As a med student I have evidence based medicine shoved down my throat at every opportunity. What about evidence based reforms? The NHS is by percentage of GDP expenditure, one of the most cost effective method of delivering healthcare in the world. Private sector porters and cleaners really didn't help. We cant afford these reforms

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    At the risk of having bricks thrown at me I have to admit that I think the NHS is in serious need of reform. The layers of "management" that have been added by successive governments all in the interests of 'efficiency' in reality in the interests of the politicians having the illusion of control.
    This has resulted in the ultimate insanity of the NHS having marketing managers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    As medical doctor, once I'm again left gob smacked by the coalition government attitudes towards NHS staff + our governing bodies. We've worked in the NHS for many yrs now + know what it takes to keep it going. To be denied a voice on the biggest change since the NHS started in 1948 is disloyal to those of us who have worked hard + given up free time to make the NHS possible. We just want our say

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    When you do Editor's picks please would you accurately represent the balance of views. Have pro and half anti is biased reporting when the vast majority do not wish for this to happen.

    Those of us working in the NHS do not oppose for the sake it We don't want a top down reorganisation at same time as a 20% funding cut and the need innovate to meet the changing needs of an aging population.


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