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03-10-2011 | General practice | Article

Public health experts’ warning on Bill


Daily Telegraph

Public health experts have launched a new attack on the government's NHS reforms, with an open letter calling on the House of Lords to scrap the Health and Social Care Bill.

The letter, signed by nearly 400 specialists and published today in the Daily Telegraph, warns that "the Bill will do irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual patients and to society as a whole".

Experts including 40 directors of public health emphasise their concerns over a "significantly heightened degree of commercialisation and marketisation", which they say will erode medical ethics and trust and waste money on competition management. Moreover, they say the reforms will widen health inequalities and undermine the ability to respond effectively to public health emergencies.

"It is our professional judgement that the Health and Social Care Bill will erode the NHS's ethical and cooperative foundations and that it will not deliver efficiency, quality, fairness or choice," the letter states. "We therefore request that you reject passage of the Health and Social Care Bill."

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Future Forum Chair and former RCGP leader Professor Steve Field defended the Bill, saying that the Forum had forced numerous changes to it, including those to ensure Monitor "didn't concentrate on competition but encourages collaboration".

"I think we made substantial changes and now it is up to the House of Lords, that's democracy."

But Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Public Health at NHS Portsmouth, said "none of the amendments have really affected the substance of the Bill".

"It is really important to speak out at this time as the Bill enters the House of Lords. We believe this may be the last chance to significantly affect the passage of the Bill," he said.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price