Unions’ last-ditch bid to halt Bill
Health unions have issued a last-ditch call for the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill ahead of critical debates in Parliament today.
BMA Chair of Council Dr Hamish Meldrum urged MPs and peers: "It is not too late for parliamentarians to do the right thing. Despite even further amendment, there are still many unaddressed concerns about the high risks this Bill poses to the NHS."
Labour has brought the Bill back into the Commons for an opposition day debate, when MPs will also vote on the 'Drop the Bill' e-petition initiated by former GP Dr Kailash Chand. Meanwhile the Lords are to debate the legislation a final time before its Third Reading on 19 March, when the government hopes the Bill will finally be passed into law.
Government support was dented somewhat at the Liberal Democrat party conference over the weekend, where delegates overturned a motion to endorse the Bill. Dr Meldrum and other union leaders are now seeking to keep up the pressure on wavering party members, while pledging to work with the government on alternatives to the Bill.
Meanwhile, the RCGP moved to quash claims that it has "given up" on fighting the reforms, after Chair Dr Clare Gerada wrote to the Prime Minister asking the government to include the College in discussions over how to implement the changes.
In a statement, the College said that concerns over the damaging effect of such a "complex and confusing" restructure means that "whatever happens with the Bill, there is an urgent need to secure the stability of the NHS in England now".
But it added: "This does not in any way change our stance on the Bill - it remains a real high risk to the future of the NHS, and we continue to call on all legislators in Parliament to do all they can to withdraw it."
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By Caroline Price