Tower Hamlets MP tells government to scrap “nightmare” NHS bill as local doctors’ groups revolt

Pic: Rushnara Ali

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali called on the government to abandon its “nightmare” NHS bill yesterday after GPs in charge of piloting it in Tower Hamlets publicly opposed the reforms.

The call came during a debate in Parliament about the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill, where Ali repeated the concerns of local doctors.

EastLondonLines reported on Tuesday how Tower Hamlets’ Clinical Commissioning Group, tasked by the government with piloting the bill ahead of its 2013 deadline, had come out against it in a letter to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley,

Ali called upon Lansley to drop the bill and announced the revolt CCG’s result to ministers.

She said: “The Secretary of State will know that the Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group has today called on the government to drop the Bill, citing the ‘bureaucracy generated’ as a principal reason for this. “

“When the very structures he has created tell him they don’t wish to be part of the nightmare system he is trying to create, isn’t it time to face up to reality and drop this bill?”

Lansley, who has close ties with the chair of Tower Hamlets’ CCG and founder of the Bromley by Bow Centre, Sam Everington, said that the centre was “gearing itself up” for the changes that will be implemented by the Bill.

He added: “It will use the powers in the Bill and will do so very effectively.”

However, Everington stressed the importance of making the groups’ dissatisfaction with the Bill known by the government.

He told GPs magazine Pulse: “Local GPs and other health professionals were very keen that we should make our opposition to these proposals clear to the Prime Minister”,

Under the reforms, doctors 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.

Labour councillor Rachael Saunders said that Tower Hamlets will increase the pressure on Lansley to scrap the Bill by campaigning across the borough this weekend, while a Lewisham doctor told EastLondonLines she intended to do the same.

Speaking after the debate, Ali urged the government to ditch their “ideological ideas” and listen to patients and doctors.

She said: “I’ve been contacted by hundreds of my constituents who are dismayed at the impact the Government’s top down changes will have on our NHS.

“They are seriously concerned about the backdoor privatisation of the NHS, which is the real agenda of this government – their changes will allow 49% of income in NHS hospitals to come from private patients.

“Now even the doctors in his own Clinical Commissioning Groups are calling on him to drop this bill.”

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’.

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