Tower Hamlets GPs become first in country to openly revolt and urge Cameron to drop NHS Bill

Pic: Zetzon

Doctors in charge of implementing the government’s Health and Social Care Bill in Tower Hamlets have written to David Cameron demanding the bill be scrapped.

Tower Hamlets’ Clinical Commissioning Group was chosen this month to pilot the government’s reforms but is now the first in the country to speak out openly against them.

GPs called on the Prime Minister to “reflect and withdraw” the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, saying that an Act of Parliament is not needed to improve the quality of patient care.

The CCG warned: “Your rolling restructuring of the NHS compromises our ability to focus on what really counts – improving quality of services for patients, and ensuring value for money during a period of financial restraint.”

‘Your government has interpreted our commitment to our patients as support for the bill. It is not.”

CCGs are groups of doctors that will, from April 2013, be responsible for commissioning or buying local health services In England. Along with Hackney, Tower Hamlets was one of just six chosen to pilot the controversial bill

The letter copied in via email the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, who introduced the bill in 2011.

It expected to put increasing pressure on ministers as the bill enters into the third day of the report stage in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

It went on: “Clinicians, patients and managers in Tower Hamlets are determined to improve health and well-being, but your rolling restructuring of the NHS compromises our ability to focus on what really counts”.

The CCG supported the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association, who oppose the bill, and use their own experience to support their plea.

The chair of the group, Sam Everington, is a founding partner and GP of the Bromley by Bow Centre in Tower Hamlets, which hosted Lansley’s first public speech as secretary.

Speaking to Pulse Today, the medical news site, Everington said that the restructuring of the NHS is “causing a massive amount of instability.”

Everington added: “We are spending an enormous amount of time just dealing with the change, rather than on patient care”.

Lansley had used his first public appearance to praise the success of Everington’s clinic.

Under the reforms, doctors will form groups to commission or buy services from English hospitals and care trusts – but commissioning for GPs themselves will pass to regional health boards.

Surgeries will also be allowed to relax boundaries and take their patients from anywhere, raising fears of ‘cherry-picking’ for rich inner city practices.

East London doctors have taken the lead in setting up democratically organised CCGs but many say they oppose the reforms and are trying to make the best of a bad situation for their patients.

Louise Irvine, a Lewisham GP who sits on the British Medical Association’s London council, told EastLondonLines a revolt of CCGs could be the “final nail in the coffin” for the bill.

She said: “GPs are quite angry at being co-opted as supporters or cheerleaders of the bill, when all they want to do is be more involved in supporting patient care.”

“Cameron and Lansley have tried to make out that because GPs are involved in CCG pathfinders that means that they’re supporting it.”

“That’s not actually true – many GPs have got involved in commissioning because they feel that the only way they can help to protect patient services after the PCTs were gutted.”

She said she would be urging Lewisham’s CCG and others to write similar letters.

EastLondonLines reported earlier this month on Hackney healthcare workers who also opposed the Bill in a protest outside the House of Lords.

The month before, local GPs claimed the pilot was imposed on them without their consent or input and that piloting the reforms was dangerous in light of ‘unanswered questions’.

Critics say the bill means much commissioning power will actually pass to private companies like McKinsey after leaked documents outlined plans for “commissioning support” units that would “operate on commercial lines”.

The full letter to the PM can be found here.




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