Guest Editorial - Lords must bring about Health Bill withdrawal

With the Health Bill moving through the Lords, it may seem these reforms are a foregone conclusion, although each day brings surprising developments that change may still be afoot.

The most surprising of these, of course, comes from the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who, in a letter co-signed with Baroness Williams, has set out five 'final' changes that he believes will make these reforms acceptable to pass into law.

These changes focus on competition and conflicts of interest, two of our own major concerns, and seek to ensure, in the deputy PM's own words, that 'competition is the servant of the NHS, never its master'.

Lord Crisp, too, has written calling for our political leaders to stop using the NHS as a political football, and to create a cross party political vision for its future. His view resonates with our own, what we need is a sensible debate about the future of the NHS; what it should be able to provide and how it should be funded.

The RCGP supports GPs being involved in commissioning. We also want the NHS to constantly improve, and for all healthcare professionals to work together to address how to deliver integrated care for our patients.

Withdrawal of the Bill
But the college does not believe that the Bill in its current state is fit to provide this, and we have written to peers in the Lords urging them to use their influence to bring about the withdrawal of the Bill.

What we want, above all, is a health service that provides care, for free, at the point of need, and one that does not discriminate between rich and poor. Because the needs of our patients must always be at the centre of everything we do.

I have seen many major reorganisations of the NHS in my clinical career, and each time GPs have rolled up their sleeves and got on with the day job - providing high quality care to their patients and communities.

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