Editorial: Ministers must listen to GPs on Health Bill

The fact that three royal colleges, including the RCGP, rushed out clarifying statements after David Cameron claimed they supported the Health Bill shows how unpopular the Bill has become.

Almost no professional body wants to be associated with it.

Yet, despite this, the Bill sailed through the Commons last week. It faces a much tougher time in the Lords, so it is still unclear as to when, or even if, it will be enacted.

On the ground, however, change is already well underway. Some believe we have passed the point of no return, but this is not really a valid reason for the government to carry on regardless. It must listen to, and address, the concerns of GPs and other groups.

So far the government has failed to convince any professional group its plans are what the health service needs. Even some GPs who back the plans are worried that recent changes to the Bill will increase bureaucracy, making it harder for GP commissioners to innovate. And there are concerns that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) may be forced to merge until they effectively replicate PCTs . So much for bottom-up change.

Alarm bells should be ringing in Richmond House and Downing Street. Implementation will be difficult without the support of GPs and other professional groups. It will be impossible if the enthusiastic GP commissioners embracing change are not on board.

The government may have chosen to disregard the BMA and RCGP in the run-up to the Commons vote, but it really needs to listen to GPs and other staff if it has any hope of its reforms being a success.

It is, at least, encouraging that Professor Steve Field believes that the Future Forum will be independent and give clinicians the chance to shape how the plans could work in practice.

Regardless of what happens in the Lords it is virtually a given that GPs will have a greater role in commissioning. CCGs need to know that the government is prepared to listen to their concerns and will provide the support that they and frontline GPs need to deliver improved patient care.


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