Health workers who originally supported NHS reforms did not realise their full implications, GP claims
Health workers who originally supported NHS reforms did not realise their full implications, GP claims Reuters

A former health chief claims most GPs were "duped" into supporting proposed NHS reforms, calling for the coalition government to "get rid of the health bill".

In a British Medical Journal editorial, Cambridgeshire GP Dr Peter Bailey, former vice-chair of a commissioning group, lashes out at the "bungled reorganisations" of the Health and Social Care Bill that is struggling its way through the House of Lords.

Prime Minister David Cameron has come under heavy pressure to drop the bill, with GPs, nurses and the British Medical Association all making their concerns public.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appeared to be skating on increasingly thin ice when Tim Montgomerie, editor of the influential Tory website Conservative Home, called the bill "potentially fatal" to the party's re-election prospects, while claiming the support of three ministers.

Support Without Understanding

In his "personal view", Dr Bailey declares that the majority of the health service was duped into supporting the bill, which was not fully understood.

He said he worked hard for the Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) in order to try and protect the NHS from financial crisis, adding that GPs were shocked when the bill actually arrived.

The bill proposes a major top-down reorganisation of the health service, with commissioning responsibility passed from PCTs to GP consortiums.

"We were being set up," he said. "Who among us, even the enthusiasts, had the necessary skills? Who had the extra time needed?

"How would the complexity of all the new committees, watchdogs, boards, clusters, consortiums and providers be serviced alongside the day job? Oh and, by the way, we were also to save £20bn while we were at it."

He blames health service workers' enthusiasm for protecting the fundamental ethos of the NHS for them being led into collusion with the bill.

"By the time the professions really understood the bill, much of the damage was already done," he said.

He reinforces claims made by critics that the scale of pre-emptive reorganisation has caused many staff to leave PCTs out of concern for their own careers.

"Now we stand baffled in the wreckage like a householder who has recklessly allowed his plausible but incompetent builder to bash out a load bearing wall to improve the view, but instead has brought the whole edifice to the point of collapse," he added.

"Let us put down the sledgehammer, get rid of the bill and bring in a structural engineer to stabilise our finest institution."