Warning over NHS competition plans
GPs will walk away from the Government's NHS reforms in England unless ministers change rules opening the health service up to more competition, one of the leading architects of the new system has warned.
Dr Michael Dixon, interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said family doctors risk getting "bogged down" in the process and may feel it is "a waste of time".
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 doctors and nurses have appealed to MPs to force a vote on the new rules - known as Section 75 regulations - to prevent their implementation at the start of next month.
The signatories, who include Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, and Professor John Ashton, incoming president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the regulations will "force virtually every part of the English NHS to be opened up to the private sector".
Labour has tabled a motion in the House of Lords designed to kill off the regulations, which would bar "any restrictions on competition that are not necessary". Critics fear they will make it easier for independent providers to get contract decisions overturned if they feel they should have been open to tender.
But former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the House of Commons that the regulations do not represent any change from the reforms approved by Parliament last year in the Health and Social Care Act.
The new rules will enable clinical commissioners "to go for... whoever is best placed to deliver to their patients the best service, to improve the quality of the service, to meet the needs of people who use the services and to improve efficiency" and would not require competitive tendering in every case, he said.
Dr Dixon told Pulse magazine: "The danger about the current wording of Section 75 is that it seems to put a duty upon the commissioner to go for competition with all contracts that are made. We don't want to get CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) bogged down in protracted processes. The aim of clinical commissioning was to innovate, to redesign, to try and ensure that we do more outside of hospital and in primary care."
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "It's getting serious for the Government when a leading advocate for their NHS plans believes doctors have been conned. Thousands of NHS staff at every level have written to newspapers and are signing petitions against these regulations turning the NHS into a full-blown commercial market - they know exactly what it'll mean for the frontline NHS. The Government needs to start listening and they should start by withdrawing these regulations without delay."
David Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister would "consider" the concerns expressed by clinicians, but still believes the new regulations are right. He said: The reason we believe the regulations are the right ones is because they are putting commissioners, clinicians, front and centre of the decisions that are taken. They are consistent with the previous procurement rule regime and they are also consistent with the assurances given during the passage of what is now the Act."