Lansley faces 'selective listening' claim over Health Bill

Health secretary Andrew Lansley was accused of 'selective listening' by the BMA after he was forced to push past demonstrators outside a Downing Street summit on NHS reforms on Monday.

Andrew Lansley: was told by retired Unison rep June Hautot that it was ‘codswallop’ to claim his reforms would not lead to a privatised NHS
Andrew Lansley: was told by retired Unison rep June Hautot that it was ‘codswallop’ to claim his reforms would not lead to a privatised NHS

Doctors’ leaders made the claim after the BMA, RCGP and other organisations opposed to the Health Bill were excluded from the meeting.

Protesters outside the summit included Lewisham GP Dr Louise Irvine, who tried in vain to hand a 650-signature petition against the Health Bill to Mr Lansley.

The protesters also included retired Unison rep June Hautot, who told the health secretary it was ‘codswallop’ to claim his reforms would not lead to a privatised NHS.

A statement from the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) following the meeting welcomed a letter from Mr Lansley to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

NAPC chairman Dr Charles Alessi welcomed the letter, which he said made clear that CCGs would have control over their commissioning decisions.

He said it made clear that ‘CCGs alone will decide when and how competition, if at all, should be used in the interest of patients’.

But speaking after the protest, Dr Irvine told GP: ‘People were there to express their anger about the changes to the NHS. We saw Andrew Lansley walking past and tried to give him a petition with 650 signatures we managed to collect in less than 24 hours. He refused to take it and we handed it in at Downing Street later.

‘The protest showed the level of anger amongst ordinary people, like pensioner June, who was very passionate, stepping up to Lansley. The latest opinion polls show the voters are opposing the Bill – the strongest opposition comes from the elderly.’

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) was among a handful of royal colleges invited to the summit. RCP president Sir Richard Thompson said he had raised concerns about the damaging effect of increased competition in the NHS under the reforms.

He warned that competition was undermining integration, and said the raised cap on private work by NHS hospitals could be damaging.

He added: ‘We felt we could best represent the views of our members by attending the meeting and briefing the prime minister on the RCP’s concerns.’

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said after the meeting that clinical commissioning was a ‘good concept’, but its success could be achieved without legislation.

He added: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the government seems increasingly to be indulging in selective listening. The BMA represents nearly 150,000 doctors – in hospitals, community services and general practice. We want to find a way to make sure patient care continues to improve. If the government shares this objective, it has to recognise that NHS reform must have the support of these – and all other – health professionals.’

The RCP could yet join other colleges in outright opposition to the Bill. On 27 February it will hold a meeting to debate the Health Bill and vote on a motion to decide if the RCP should survey its membership on the reforms.

Nick Bostock and Helen Harjak recommends

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