Health secretary offers four concessions to Health Bill opponents

Health secretary Andrew Lansley was subjected to a 45-minute grilling by GPs and appeared to offer four concessions to Health Bill opponents.

Speaking at the RCGP annual conference in Liverpool on Saturday, Mr Lansley was met by a group of about 40 protesters outside the venue who were singing songs opposing the Health Bill.

The health secretary spoke for 15 minutes as requested but prolonged his Q&A session with GPs from 20 to 45 minutes as GP after GP stood up to the microphones to oppose the Health Bill. One GP spoke in favour.

Summing up after Mr Lansley’s speech, RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada highlighted four apparent concessions he had made:

  • Only in exceptional circumstances would GPs ‘be mandated to open up GP boundaries’,
  • The health secretary would continue to be responsible for the NHS,
  • Any Qualified Provider would be rolled out in a controlled way, and,
  • Enhanced GP training would be supported.

Watch the video highlights here

Mr Lansley said on the abolition of practice boundaries expected in April: ‘The last government’s proposals didn’t take account of the practicalities. We will ensure any progress is practical. We need to think carefully about how we manage home visiting and how patients who don’t live locally to their practice can receive urgent care and how information is shared. We will make sure this is done in a way that preserves the responsibility of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for the health of their local population.’

Mr Lansley denied the Health Bill would privatise the NHS but was challenged on his definition by GPs.

Dr Angela Burnett, of Hackney, east London, said: ‘I’ve grave concerns about increasing privatisation. It’s a mistake to move closer to a US model which is the most expensive and most unequal healthcare system in the world.’

Surrey GP Dr Pete Deveson said: ‘Mr Lansley repeatedly says that he is not privatising the NHS but what is his definition of privatisation?’ He envisaged the introduction of co-payments for treatment and insurance under the Bill.

Oxford GP Dr Duncan Keeley said: ‘Many GPs still think that the changes proposed in the Health Bill are damaging to the NHS. The Bill should be withdrawn.’

Mr Lansley said: ‘The Bill does not allow for private organisations to become responsible for the whole of commissioning. If you ask the public they would say privatisation meant paying for services and that’s not what we’re proposing. Will we have more private providers than we do now? I don’t know.’

Dr Gerada argued that the Bill allowed for more privatisation because more money would move into the for-profit sector.

However, a GP from Birkenhead, who is part of a CCG, agreed with Mr Lansley.

Mr Lansley argued that GP pay was essentially the difference in profit between income and outgoings. ‘If you shut out the private sector you essentially shut out the independent sector too.’

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