NHS health reforms will benefit most vulnerable in society claim senior doctors
The “most elderly, infirm and vulnerable” in society will receive “enormous benefits” from the Coalition’s controversial health reforms, a group of senior GPs who represent seven million patients declare today.
In a letter published in The Daily Telegraph, 42 family doctors, who together lead 1,100 practices across England, call on the Government to press ahead with the Health and Social Care Bill, and not withdraw support for Andrew Lansley, the embattled Health Secretary.
They argue: “The reforms have received a very bad press lately but much of the criticism has been noticeably misinformed.”
The doctors are all heads of recently-formed GPs’ consortia – groups of practices that have joined together to take over responsibility for almost four-fifths of the NHS’s £100 billion budget from 2013.
They write that they “wholeheartedly support” moves to scrap primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, which currently decide how that money is spent.
“The reforms are not revolutionary but an evolution,” they say.
Putting GPs in charge will make the health service more effective and accountable at a time of “considerable financial constraints”, they add.
The letter is a welcome boost for Mr Lansley after Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, described the reforms as a “disruptive revolution”.
It also marks the first time that a significant group of doctors has pledged such apparently unequivocal support for the Bill, which has attracted fierce criticism from health professionals over several months.
The attacks led Mr Lansley to tell MPs last month that there would be a “pause” in the Bill to listen to critics and, if necessary, make changes.
Some Liberal Democrats want the Bill killed, fearing that moves to make it easier for private companies to become NHS suppliers amount to privatisation by the back door.
Earlier this week, the Royal College of General Practitioners wrote to the Prime Minister warning that the bill could damage the NHS irreparably.
In today’s letter, GPs say that ditching the reforms would be a mistake.
The signatories, led by Dr Jonathan Munday, chairman of the Victoria Commissioning Consortium in London, write: “Our patients should feel comfortable that decisions about the local provision of health care are to be taken in future by their family doctors, many of whom they know personally. We caution the Coalition of the danger of confusing and diluting the responsibility for effecting change in any amendments to the current proposals.”
They add: “Now that there are considerable financial constraints nationally, difficult decisions will have to be made on the provision of care. Surely it is better that these decisions are taken locally by professionals in daily contact with the patients who will be affected by them, rather than by remote administrators.
“On average, our patients see their GP four times a year, and if they are dissatisfied with the services … will have no difficulty in saying so. When was the last time any patient managed an audience with a PCT chairman?”
They also claim that the advantages of plans to coordinate health and social care into “a seamless whole” have been overlooked.
“If successful, there will be enormous benefits to the most elderly, infirm and vulnerable people in our community, whose care is often currently too fragmented,” they say.
The letter neglects to mention concerns about privatisation, however.
Responding to the letter last night, Mr Lansley said: “I welcome the appetite shown by doctors to lead improvements in the NHS and deliver benefits for patients.”
Stephen Dorrell, the Tory chairman of the Commons health select committee, added: “The reforms are an evolution of the policies pursued by both Labour and Conservative governments since 1990.
“No change is not an option. We need to move on to discuss this process of change to ensure that the health service continues to meet the needs of patients in the years ahead.”
Tags: Andrew Lansley, Conservatives, Doctors, GPs, Health Direct, Health Professionals, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages