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Health reforms will do 'irreparable' damage to public health

Published on 04/10/11 at 10:54am

Doctors have urged the House of Lords to reject the Health and Social Care Bill, saying the proposed legislation will do “irreparable” damage to the provision of public health services.

In an impassioned letter to the Daily Telegraph, signed by hundreds of public health doctors and specialists, the government is slammed for claiming that the reforms have the backing of the health professions.

“They do not,” the letter says. “Neither do they have the public’s support. The  Health and Social Care Bill will erode the NHS’ ethical and cooperative foundations and will not deliver efficiency, quality, fairness or choice.”

Signatories include consultants, directors of public health at various authorities and academics, who write: “The Bill will do irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual patients and to society as a whole.”

By complete contrast, health secretary Andrew Lansley’s stance has been that the plans are necessary to safeguard the future of the NHS as it faces the demands of an ageing population and increasing costs of treatment.

One of Lansley’s key messages is that the Bill will establish a closer working relationship between public health and local government – something which the letter’s signatories say they welcome.

But they also believe that the government’s wider proposals will lead to a “degree of marketisation and commercialisation” that will fragment patient care, increase safety risks, erode medical ethics and trust within the NHS itself and widen health inequalities.

The Bill will also waste money and slow up the NHS’s response to communicable disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies, the letter to the Telegraph says.

DH issues draft guidance for clinical commissioning groups

The letter’s publication comes just days after the Department of Health’s plans to hand greater power to clinicians were further crystallised with the release of more draft guidance for emerging clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

More than 250 of these groups of GP practices have so far declared their interest, and the plan is that they will take responsibility for health care budgets from April 2013.

“CCGs are at the heart of our NHS modernisation plans,” explained Lansley. “We strengthened our plans following the listening exercise to ensure there will be wider clinical leadership within CCGs which will lead to stronger collaboration at a local level.”

Aspiring CCGs will undertake a risk assessment and be given help to gain the commissioning experience which will enable them to create a track record with local authorities.

A new body which is not yet in place, the NHS Commissioning Board, will ultimately authorise CCGs and oversee the commissioning system – in the meantime a ‘shadow’ Board is currently working with would-be CCGs.

Adam Hill

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