Paediatricians call for government to withdraw the health bill

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 24 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1384
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is calling on the government to withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill after 79% of respondents to an online survey voted to back the move rather than to push for amendments.

The college says it is urging ministers to bring together all healthcare professionals to work on practical steps for delivering areas of reform where there is clear consensus.

It joins the BMA, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Faculty of Public Health, the Society of Radiographers, and the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwives in opposing the bill.

There were 1492 valid votes (14.5% turnout) to the survey from the college’s UK members. Of these, 308 (20.6%) voted to continue with amending the bill and 1184 (79.4%) voted to call for its withdrawal.

Terence Stephenson, president of the college, said: “It is clear that a substantial majority of our voting members believe that the Health and Social Care Bill carries risk for children and young people.

“The RCPCH [Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health] has never at any stage supported the bill, but we have consistently engaged with Government to try and push for amendments to ensure the best outcomes for children. Although we have secured some changes—such as the Children’s Forum—it’s our membership’s views that these do not go far enough.”

Professor Stephenson said that at the Downing Street summit on 20 February (BMJ 2012; 344:e1294, doi:10.1136/bmj.e1294) the prime minister made it clear that the government will press ahead with the bill.

He added, “Pushing the bill through is creating disaffection amongst the very people—the clinicians—who will be delivering these changes on the ground when the reality is that there are areas of reform where the healthcare profession is in agreement, most obviously the principle of clinically led commissioning and improving how services are delivered.

“All those representing healthcare professionals need to be brought together to thrash out how these areas of consensus can be effectively put into practice.”

On 23 February a group of 36 fellows and members of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) criticised their president, Richard Thompson, for attending the summit.

In a letter to the Telegraph (“The politics of health, p 27) they said he should have declined the invitation saying: “A meeting about the bill cannot legitimately be called a ‘summit’ when the Royal Colleges of General Practitioners and of Nursing, the Faculty of Public Health, allied health care professions and other major stakeholders are excluded. Given that the reforms are intended to ‘empower’ GPs and to be delivered largely through them, their college’s omission from the summit was quite remarkable.”

They went on to say that while the college tried to avoid politics, “But on this occasion politics was thrust upon it. Inviting our president to the meeting was a political act. Attending it was also a political act.”

After the summit Professor Thompson said in an email to members and fellows that the college “felt we could best represent the views of our members by attending the meeting and briefing the prime minister on the RCP’s concerns.” He said that he raised many concerns with Mr Cameron, including the effects of competition on integrated care pathways and the need for a high quality threshold for any qualified provider of clinical services.

The letter concludes, “More people are spotting the huge gap between ministerial rhetoric and the bill’s actual effect. The changes that are now taking place do not require this bill, which will not achieve the government’s stated aims. When in a hole, it is advisable to stop digging. It is not too late to drop the bill.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1384

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