Ditch Health Bill, says GP group
The Government's plans for reform of the NHS have come under fresh attack from one of the GP groups pioneering the move to local commissioning.
The Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group wrote to David Cameron urging him to ditch the controversial Health and Social Care Bill and echoing the concerns raised by professional bodies including the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs.
The east London group is the first CCG to go public with a call for the Bill to be scrapped. Its chair Dr Sam Everington is a keen advocate of reform, who hosted Andrew Lansley's first speech as a Government minister, when the Health Secretary hailed his Bromley-by-Bow health centre for its innovative approach.
But his group said that the goal of improving services to patients through clinically-led commissioning can be achieved without the extra bureaucracy which the Bill will create. The restructuring of the NHS being conducted by Mr Lansley was getting in the way of GPs' work, they warned. And they told the Prime Minister that he was wrong to claim repeatedly that GPs' willingness to participate in preparations for the new arrangements meant that they supported the Bill.
The letter came as Mr Lansley was forced to come to the House of Commons to defend his reforms to MPs. Responding to an urgent question, the Health Secretary insisted that the coalition Government was entirely united over the reforms, despite Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's call for further changes to limit the role of competition in the NHS.
In its letter to Mr Cameron, the CCG said: "We support a strong role for clinical involvement in commissioning decisions that lead to better health outcomes for our patients. We do this already in Tower Hamlets. An Act of Parliament is not needed to make this happen.
"Clinicians, patients and managers in Tower Hamlets are determined to improve health and well-being, but your rolling restructuring of the NHS compromises our ability to focus on what really counts - improving quality of services for patients, and ensuring value for money during a period of financial restraint.
"We care deeply about the patients that we see every day and we believe the improvements we all want to see in the NHS can be achieved without the bureaucracy generated by the Bill. Your Government has interpreted our commitment to our patients as support for the Bill. It is not."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "GPs in Tower Hamlets, like all GPs, will be able to take these powers to benefit their local patients, and only with the Bill can we make clinical commissioning a reality for patients across the country. That is why the NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care - who represent over 11,000 primary care clinicians - support our proposals.
"Without the Bill, doctors and nurses will always run the risk of having their decisions second-guessed by the managers running Primary Care Trusts. The Bill cuts out this needless bureaucracy and hands control for care over to those who know their patients best - the doctors and nurses throughout the NHS."