Editorial - Cameron needs to rethink Health Bill strategy

What a difference a year makes. Rewind a year and GP joined 140 representatives of the 52 first-wave GP pathfinder consortia at a 10 Downing Street reception hosted by prime minister David Cameron.

David Cameron and the Health Bill - a year is a long time in politics
David Cameron and the Health Bill - a year is a long time in politics

The mood was determined and upbeat. There was no doubting the enthusiasm of the prime minister as he spent up to an hour having his photograph taken with all of the clinical commissioning group (CCG) representatives in what he described as his 'modest Georgian home'.

Conspicuous by his absence was BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum but through no lack of an invitation. As the first cracks in Bill support were emerging, he was unable to attend because of a BMA Council meeting which had voted for a special meeting to discuss the impending legislation.

Fast forward a year and the BMA and RCGP weren't even invited to the latest Number 10 health summit this month as Health Bill opposition grows. Guests reportedly still aired many of the concerns that representatives of the BMA and RCGP might have been expected to raise.

Afterwards the BMA aptly described the summit as 'selective listening'. It is exactly this sort of childish behaviour that will antagonise GPs further and go no way to persuading an increasingly sceptical public that the NHS is better off in the coalition government's hands.

A better strategy would be for Mr Cameron to articulate more clearly the successes that CCGs are already enjoying, establishing common ground with the BMA and RCGP and continuing to seek to convince them of the merits of his plans. Or at least parts of them. An invitation for BMA and RCGP representatives to be in the room at future such summits would be a start.

Mr Cameron will find that he won't have to shout quite so loudly about the merits of his plans if he can quietly convince more GP bodies of his Bill values.

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