Influential chief of GPs body backs move to keep healthcare free

By staff writers
29 Jan 2013

Professor Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners has backed crossbench peer Lord Owen's 'reinstate the NHS' Bill, which aims legally to secure the Secretary of State for Health's duty to provide free healthcare and make all NHS providers accountable to parliament.

The influential Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has some 44,00 members. It is the professional membership body for family doctors in the UK and overseas.

The National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill, which is due to be registered in the House of Lords today (29 January 2013), aims to provide a legal basis for the NHS in England, which, says Lord Owen, the Health and Social Care Act threatens.

This is because the law which required the health secretary to fund and provide all medical care to the whole population on an equitable basis was abolished after the Health and Social Care Act become law last year, he points out.

Lord Owen’s Bill aims to make all bodies providing NHS services subject to ministerial control and to make it the health secretary’s duty to promote a comprehensive and integrated health service, reports GP Online magazine.

The Bill requires that services "must be free of charge except in so far as the making and recovery of charges is expressly provided for by or under any enactment, whenever passed".

Lord Owen explained: "This Bill, if it becomes an Act in 2015, will come just in time to save it from the worst ravages of an external and full-blooded market."

He continued: "The commercial entities that will start to marketise the NHS from April 2013, in ever increasing numbers, will not be willing purely because of a general election to acquiesce in the stopping of contractual negotiations. They will want to push ahead and get in under the wire."

"What is needed… is a short Bill capable of being implemented quickly and with surgical precision, filleting out the ideological nonsense of a reorganisation that only the ideologues wanted and has damaged the health service in every month since it began to be implemented," the crossbench peer declared.

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada doubts that the Bill will be successful, but believes that it is vital to show that people still oppose the government’s reforms and to continue to work for change and improvement.

She commented: "I support anything that gets us to a position that puts the emphasis on a health system that provides a fair and equal system that is value for money, which I don’t think the current Health and Social Care Act does."

"The secretary of state needs to be accountable. Service providers need to be accountable some way to parliament," Professor Gerada said.

* Lord Owen’s National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill (Word *.docx document)

* Lord Owen’s briefing (Word *.docx document)

* Explanatory Notes to the Bill (Word *.docx document)

[Ekk/3]

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