NHS Reforms; Government's Proposed Reforms Would Jeopardise Universal Free Healthcare, GPs Warn PM
Government's plans to scrap the Health Secretary's responsibility to offer comprehensive service could jeopardise the founding principles of the NHS of universal healthcare, GPs have written to the Prime Minister David Cameron.
GPs argued that the NHS must remain a free service at the point of use and access to it should be determined by patients' clinical needs and not their ability to pay, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) wrote in their 26 page analysis sent to No. 10.
The RCGP wants the government to retain the Health Secretary's responsibility to provide comprehensive care. "If that duty goes our fear, and that of many others, is that it will open up the NHS to patients being charged for certain parts of their services," Dr. Clare Gerada, Chair of the RCGP told the BBC.
"It appears that we are moving headlong into an insurance-type model of the NHS," she added.
The RCGP did welcome initiatives such as involving GPs in planning and care commissioning, however they question the need for more competition. The RCGP is the first organisation which has submitted evidence on Lansley's NHS reform Bill and has argued for complete rewriting of the competition clause in the bill.
It laid out nine clear recommendations in its letter to Mr. Cameron, including assurance from the government on protection of doctor patient confidentiality, ensuring that patients cannot be charged for services by providers and ensuring there is public accountability of GP consortia.
The RCGP also scrutinised the role of Monitor, the NHS regulator which by statute has to support competition. The GPs are uncomfortable about this to say the least.
"The fear is that it will no longer be possible to deliver integrated services in practice, especially where integration relies on close collaboration between different providers and commissioners, and could be seen as anti-competitive," the letter said.
Opposition to the Health Bill
The opposition to the Government's proposed NHS reforms has been strong and have come from a wide group of stakeholders. They range from doctors, to nurses, to public services unions to charities and many others including many MPs and local activists.
In addition, the Liberal Democrats have openly broken ranks with their Tory counterparts in government on these reforms.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made it abundantly clear on Sunday that there would have to be "substantial signficant changes" to the current bill to receive Liberal Democrat support. Mr. Clegg went on to say that he wants an evolutionary approach to the NHS reforms rather than a "disruptive" one.
The opposition Labour party warned that this letter from the GP is the "red card" for Lansley's reforms.
"From competition law to charging patients, GPs are making it clear they don't want the Tories' free market NHS and the Prime Minister must now make radical changes to his health plans in order to regain the trust of NHS professionals," John Healey, the Shadow Health Secretary said.
The Prime Minister had earlier intervened following the growing the criticism and paused the progress of the bill through the Houses of Parliament to embark on a listening exercise.