NHS staff representatives have issued stinging criticisms of the government’s white paper.

In their official responses to the white paper, unions representing doctors and nurses have warned that the government’s plans are lacking in detail and are being introduced too quickly.

The British Medical Association in particular criticised the government for a lack of detail in its plans, especially around GP commissioning.

BMA GPs committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey told HSJ it was “foolhardy” for shadow GP consortia to form this financial year and begin taking on significant levels of responsibility – as set out in white paper consultation documents – in the absence of detailed policies.

He said: “It’s far too soon.  We haven’t even seen final legislation…We don’t know what the management allowances will be.”

While the first shadow consortia are already beginning to appear, Dr Vautrey said most GPs were better off spending time identifying who they wanted to work with by meeting with primary care trusts and local medical committees.

The BMA’s consultation response also attacks the increasing role set out for the private sector in the white paper, and expresses concern about powers being given to Monitor to promote competition.

Additionally it says it is “essential” that national terms and conditions for NHS staff are protected because “multiple instances of local pay negotiations would be wasteful”.

Unison’s response contained similar concerns over any creation of a larger role for the private sector. It states: “There is a danger that if services are put out to tender it will be impossible to bring them back into integrated NHS delivery without major challenges from private companies.”

The union will be in court on 14 October to learn whether or not its requested judicial review into the timing of the white paper will go ahead.

The Royal College of Nursing also submitted its official response this week, welcoming moves to empower frontline clinicians, but warning over the pace and scale of the changes.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter told HSJ’s sister magazine Nursing Times: “We think there’s a real underestimation of the amount of instability this could bring to the system.”

Former health secretary Andy Burnham also weighed into the debate last week, threatening a major campaign by Labour against the reforms.

In a letter to health secretary Andrew Lansley, he wrote: “Your plans are completely unacceptable to us and if you proceed on the basis you have set out, we will launch a major campaign in every community.”