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Colleges must support Health Bill withdrawal

The NHS Consultants Association has written to presidents of the royal colleges urging them to stop cooperating with the government’s proposed NHS reforms.

The letter, signed by over 180 doctors, says the Health and Social Care Bill is not supported by the majority of the medical profession and is not in the best long-term interests of either patients, doctors or the royal colleges.

The NHS Consultants Association said the ‘listening exercise’ had done little to address doctors’ concerns.

Key issues highlighted in the letter include the removal of the duty of the health secretary to provide a comprehensive health service; the role of Monitor in the promotion of competition; the enforced nature of competition through the promotion of the choice agenda; and increasing marketisation and privatisation of the English NHS.

It cites research from the BMJ, of over 1,000 doctors, which showed that 93% wanted the Bill to be withdrawn, and suggests there is a lack of democratic legitimacy for the reforms.

The letter says the royal colleges “should be taking a much more active role in opposing this Bill and should publicly back the BMA’s call for the bill to be withdrawn”. College support for the Bill – with the exception of the Royal College of GPs – suggests they are “out of touch with the views and concerns of the majority of grassroots doctors”.

The NHS Consultants Association believes the influential Future Forum is responsible, advocating a number of important roles for the colleges in delivering the reforms. These include establishing close links with the NHS Commissioning Board, involvement in identifying the procedures most at risk of cherry picking and prioritising work on Payment by Results.

The letter accuses them – by taking this stance – of failing to safeguard their own principles, with a key role of the colleges to “promote the underlying principles of medical professionalism and leadership”.

“It is now more crucial than ever for the leaders of the royal colleges to join in with the chorus of opposition to the reforms to prevent the further marketisation and privatisation of the English NHS, which will be inevitable if the Bill is enacted,” the letter concludes.

“The Bill cannot pass without the support of the medical profession. The colleges have a rare opportunity to make a stand for the NHS, the medical profession, and patients. We therefore call upon the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to act in the public interest by publicly calling for the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill.”

The letter was written by NHSCA co-chairs Dr Clive Peedell, Dr Jacky Davis, and the president Dr Peter Fisher. It was co-signed by over 20 professors.

The Health Bill, however, took a significant step towards becoming law this week after MPs backed the reforms in a key vote. It will now move on to the Lords.

Read the full letter.

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