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

David Cameron addresses staff at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey on 6 April 2011
Image caption 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The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, which want the bill to be withdrawn, say they have not been asked to Monday's event.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.

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Among the bodies calling for the bill to be withdrawn is the Royal College of Nursing, which said it was not aware of having received an invitation to Monday's meeting.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

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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