An influential group of public health experts has sent an urgent plea to all the medical, nursing and allied health professional Royal Colleges and Faculties urging them to oppose the government’s unpopular Health and Social Care Bill.
The letter calls on the Presidents and Board members of all the Royal Colleges and Faculties to “unequivocally, vigorously and publicly oppose the Bill while there is still time”.
It follows results from the biggest national survey of GPs so far by the Royal College of General Practitioners, in which a massive 98% of GP respondents wanted the colleges to stand together and call for the Bill to be dropped.
The growing level of opposition across a wide range of health professionals reflects a deeply felt concern that the very integrity and equity of the NHS in England is under threat. The proposed changes will create a much more fragmented, market-driven health service, with competition replacing cooperation, with disputes over accountability and liability, with huge variation in what is commissioned and provided, and with the risk of increasing inequalities in health and access to healthcare.
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, one of the signatories and a former President of the Faculty of Public Health, said:
“The complexities and consequences of this sprawling Bill are being gradually understood by more and more health professionals – and they don’t like what they’re seeing. Most of the Royal Colleges and Faculties have so far sought to engage constructively with the government to gain various concessions. But there has been no change in the Bill’s fundamental thrust – to turn the NHS into a giant marketplace, putting profits and productivity before people. Hence our plea to the Colleges and Faculties to act decisively before it’s too late”
Professor Allyson Pollock, another signatory, who is an expert on NHS policy said:
“There is a wealth of research pointing to the fact that the Bill will widen inequalities, threaten patient safety, corrupt the practice of medicine and lead to a huge waste of public money on administration and unwarranted profiteering”.
This letter to the Royal Colleges follows one sent this week by Lord Owen, arguing that that in light of the government’s refusal to publish the formal risk assessment of the Bill, the Colleges should argue that it would be riskier to proceed with the Bill than to stop it.
Dr Jacky Davis, a member of the BMA Council said:
“Given the level of disruption caused by the Bill, coupled with all the concerns and warnings that have been produced by heath policy experts, and given the huge challenge of having to make unprecedented efficiency savings, purely on the basis of prudent risk management, it is clear that this Bill should be withdrawn. It would be safer to stabilise the health system first; and then allow a full and proper debate about the need for any legislation at all”.
Copies of the detailed briefings sent to the Royal Colleges can be found here.