06/09/2011

Professional Bodies Slam Health Bill

A number of major professional medical bodies have slammed the Government's Health Bill, which is receiving its third reading in The Commons on Tuesday.

Much of the criticism is focused on the continued role of the private sector, detailed in the controversial Bill, as well as its risk of increased bureaucracy and plans for the failing elements of the NHS.

The Government was forced into a climb down in June over some of the Bill's more extreme elements, and made changes including giving health professionals other than GPs more power over how NHS funds are spent as well as watering down the role of competition.

In a statement by influential medical think tank, TheKingsFund, a spokesman said the group remained concerned that the scale of the structural changes set out in the Bill and the challenges associated with implementing them presented "risks that could damage NHS performance and harm patient care".

"The uncertainty of the past few months has caused significant instability within the NHS. It is essential to move on from this so that the NHS can focus on its key priority – the need to find £20 billion in productivity improvements to maintain quality and avoid significant cuts to services," the statement said.

Meanwhile, a joint letter in The Times on Tuesday signed by a number of top medical professionals, such as BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum and RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said they were concerned that the government remained committed to opening up the NHS further to market forces as a priority. "Without building in appropriate safeguards, extending choice to any qualified provider risks seriously destabilising existing, mainly NHS, providers and making it much harder to develop the integrated care patients want and need," the letter read.

It said: "We share a number of more detailed concerns, including the removal of the private patient income cap; 'bonus' payments to clinical commissioning groups and the need for further reassurances over the health secretary's responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service.

"We support a vision of healthcare that is patient focused, clinically-led and based on outcomes. That is why further significant amendments must be made to the Health Bill."

(DW/BMcC)

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