NHS reforms escape killer blow

Surgeons will continue working with the government
Surgeons will continue working with the government

By Alex Stevenson

The coalition's embattled NHS reforms appear to have narrowly avoided a sweeping condemnation from one of the medical community's biggest organisations.

Only the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) is thought to have prevented the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) from issuing a statement calling for the health and social care bill to be withdrawn.

The draft statement was leaked to the Guardian earlier this week. It outlined "significant concerns over a number of aspects of the health bill" and expressed disappointment that more progress has not been made.

It added: "Unless the proposals are modified the academy believes the bill may widen rather than lessen health inequalities and that unnecessary competition will undermine the provision of high quality integrated care to patients."

The royal colleges are generally less political than union organisations like the British Medical Association (BMA) - underlining the significance of the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives' withdrawal of support from the bill last week.

Had unanimity been achieved health secretary Andrew Lansley could have been forced to abandon his reforms altogether.

But the RCS said in a statement issued yesterday that it would "continue to work with parliament to improve the proposed legislation".

It added: "The College believes that the bill should be implemented without unnecessary delays, as otherwise procrastination, without an alternative cogent plan, will lead to further chaos and be to the detriment of patients."

It said it had already won concessions from the government on lessening the risk of 'cherry-picking' from the private sector, gaining clinical involvement in the commissioning process and imposing an duty on the secretary of state to 'incentivise research'.

Other organisations are continuing to pile the pressure on the government, which endured a critical report from the Commons' health committee earlier this week.

MPs had warned the reforms were having a "disruptive impact" as NHS staff look to achieve £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015.

BMA council chair Hamish Meldrum said the reforms had distracted staff and were "causing chaos on the ground".

"It is perhaps little wonder that those trying to make efficiencies are focused on short-term issues, such as their job prospects, and making rushed decisions on savings rather than looking to the longer term."


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