Downing Street Health Bill summit angers BMA

Royal colleges taking part in a Downing Street summit on the Health Bill today have been accused of 'betraying' the NHS after groups critical of the reforms were not invited.

Dr Mike Dixon: 'BMA and RCGP haven't been invited because they are calling for the withdrawal of the Bill'
Dr Mike Dixon: 'BMA and RCGP haven't been invited because they are calling for the withdrawal of the Bill'

At a meeting at 10 Downing Street around lunchtime on 20 February, clinical commissioning group (CCG) leaders, representatives of royal colleges that have not opposed the Bill outright and a handful of others will meet prime minister David Cameron and health secretary Andrew Lansley to discuss implementation of NHS reforms.

Mr Lansley wrote to CCGs across England ahead of the meeting to spell out the ‘key role they will play in the future health service’.

BMA leaders, the RCGP and the health union Unison hit out at the government for excluding them from the meeting.

A BMA spokeswoman said it was ‘odd if major bodies representing health professionals were not included’.

An RCGP spokeswoman said: 'We are disappointed that the RCGP has not been invited to the meeting at Downing Street today. The RCGP, with its 44,000 members, is the largest professional body of GPs in the UK. It is our members who will have to implement the changes if the Bill goes through so it is very important that we are part of any discussions on the way forward.'

Downing Street has yet to confirm a full guest list, but a handful of royal colleges including the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have been invited to the summit. Former Faculty of Public Health president Professor Walter Holland wrote to RCP chairman Sir Richard Thompson ahead of the meeting, warning: ‘I do hope you will not betray us. I hope that you will not allow the meeting to be used to suggest that the medical profession agrees to actions that are so contrary to the basic principles of the NHS.’

An RCP spokesman confirmed the college had been invited but refused to comment on Professor Holland’s remarks.

The NHS Alliance is among organisations that have been invited to the Downing Street summit.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: ‘My interpretation is that they want to talk about implementation of the reforms.

‘It is difficult to talk about implementation of the Bill if you are talking to people who don’t want it to be implemented.

'I presume the BMA and RCGP have not been invited because they are calling for the withdrawal of the Bill.’

Dr Dixon said the NHS Alliance shared some of the concerns of the BMA and RCGP, around the role of Monitor, fears of excessive use of competition in the NHS, and the influence of the NHS Commissioning Board.

But he said: ‘We feel clinical commissioning is such a prize to be won for general practice, with an enormous positive effect for general practice and patients, that we should not throw out the baby with bathwater.’

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