Nurses chief rejects Lansley claims
The head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said he "utterly rejects" a Government claim that opposition to the health Bill is actually about pensions.
Dr Peter Carter reacted angrily to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's claim that the RCN was "having a go" about pay and pensions.
On Wednesday, all the major health unions - representing doctors, nurses and midwives - stressed their "outright opposition" to the Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through Parliament.
They have expressed concerns about reforms in the Bill, including allowing NHS hospitals to raise up to 49% of their income from private patients. They argue that the Bill dramatically increases the role of the private sector in providing healthcare and is destabilising the NHS.
All agree that doctors and other staff should be given a role in organising services but say the Bill in its current form is costly and not in the interests of patients.
Mr Lansley said that opposition to the Bill was more about issues of pay and pensions. He said the legislation was "essential in order to give nurses and doctors clinical leadership".
He added: "I'm afraid the only thing that has happened in the last few weeks that has led to this situation with the Royal College of Nursing is that the two sides of the Royal College of Nursing have shifted.
"They used to be a professional association that was working with us on professional issues and will carry on doing that, but now the trade union aspect of the Royal College of Nursing has come to the fore, they want to have a go at the Government - I completely understand it - but they want to have a go about things like pay and pensions."
However, Dr Carter, RCN chief executive, rejected this argument. He said: "We utterly reject the claim that the RCN's decision to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill was based around the proposed pension changes.
"Nurses want to provide the highest possible standards of patient care and it is at the heart of everything they do. However, members up and down the country are telling us that this Bill is seriously destabilising the NHS."