Poster campaign launched as 98.5% of Addenbrooke’s consultants oppose NHS bill
OPPOSITION to the Government’s controversial NHS reforms is mounting with an anonymous poll of consultants at Addenbrooke’s revealing 98.5 per cent are against the Health and Social Care Bill.
Results from the poll, conducted by a worker at the hospital, were presented to an emergency general meeting of the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians on February 27, who subsequently voted to oppose the bill – which has already undergone more than 1,000 amendments.
The bill – which seeks to give GPs control over the majority of the NHS budget and opens up the health service to greater competition from the private sector – is currently making its passage through the House of Lords.
And despite fierce opposition in Cambridge, culminating in a poster campaign by the protest group 38 Degrees, those opposing the bill are reluctantly resigning themselves to a two-minute silence ‘in memory of the NHS’ on Tuesday when Health Secretary and MP for South Cambridgeshire Andrew Lansley’s bill is expected to get a final majority vote in the House of Commons.
On Tuesday, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert voted in favour of two bids in the House of Commons to drop the bill.
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Dr Huppert voted in favour of an amendment, saying that the house declined to support the bill in its current form and called for an urgent summit of the Royal colleges, professional bodies, patients’ organisations and the Government to plan health reforms based on the coalition agreement.
He said while he agreed the NHS needed reforming and the bill had been improved significantly, it was still not good enough and the NHS needed “bottom-up reforms fully supported by clinicians on the ground”.
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“Our NHS is too precious – too vital for the welfare of every single person living in Cambridge – for it to be bankrupted by inefficient structures, or broken up by unpopular reforms,” said Dr Huppert.
Chairman of the Cambridge Labour Party Daniel Zeichner challenged Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) – which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie – to reflect “overwhelming public and professional opinion” and stand up for the NHS at a meeting of its board of governors last Thursday.
Chairman of CUH Dr Mary Archer, however, said the trust had already submitted its opinions over the Health and Social Care Bill to the Government.
She said: “This time last year, when the earlier version of the bill was published, there were aspects of it which were welcomed by the trust and others which the board considered needed more reflection.
“There was a period of consultation where members of the board of directors and board of governors fed their views back to the ‘future forum’ as part of the listening exercise, following which the bill was reissued with changes.”
Mr Zeichner said after the meeting: “At a key moment in the debate on the future of the NHS, people who are representatives of patients and staff in Cambridgeshire had the chance to reflect the overwhelming opposition to this bill. They flunked it.”
Professor John Yates, a recently retired consultant at Addenbrooke’s with 30 years’ experience of working in the NHS, is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.
He said: “Satisfaction levels with the NHS are at an all-time high, outcomes are generally good and we spend less than the European average on health care.
“A recent independent review of health services in leading industrialised countries ranked the UK top for efficiency.
“The reforms are unnecessary, will cost billions of pounds and cause huge disruption. They are opposed by the majority of doctors and nurses working in the NHS.
“The challenge for the NHS is treating patients with chronic illness.
“That requires good integration between hospitals and GPs and will be made more difficult by the fragmentation that comes from promoting competition and privatisation.”
Dr Gini Leggatt, a retired GP living in Cambridge, said: “It’s very sad that the Government has chosen to ignore the views of the majority of doctors, nurses and other NHS workers, and is pressing ahead with this fundamentally flawed bill.
“The bill could damage David Cameron in the same way as the poll tax damaged Margaret Thatcher.”
A spokesman from CUH said the trust was unable to substantiate the source of the poll carried out among consultants at Addenbrooke’s.
He said: “Despite approaching several contacts within the trust and the Royal College of Physicians, we have not been able to substantiate the source of this information.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “If we choose to ignore the pressures on it, the health service will face a financial crisis within a matter of years that will threaten the very values we hold so dear – of a comprehensive health service, free at the point of use, and based on need and not the ability to pay.
“We will not allow that to happen.