Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans for reform of the NHS won strong backing today from a group of GPs who hope to be granted new powers to commission treatment for their patients.
Mr Lansley’s reforms are under close scrutiny after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg branded them a “disruptive revolution” to the NHS in England and warned he would veto them unless there were significant amendments.
Prime minister David Cameron has also signalled he wants to see changes.
But in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a group of family doctors said that they “wholeheartedly support” the proposed reforms, and called on the government to press ahead with the Health and Social Care Bill.
The letter was signed by 42 doctors who head recently-established consortia, which together involve 1,100 practices across England.
In direct contradiction to Mr Clegg, they wrote: “The reforms are not revolutionary but an evolution.
“Our patients should feel comfortable that decisions about the local provision of healthcare are to be taken in future by their family doctors, many of whom they know personally.
“We caution the coalition of the danger of confusing and diluting the responsibility for effecting change in any amendments to the current proposals.”
The letter added: “Now that there are considerable financial constraints nationally, difficult decisions will have to be made on the provision of care. Surely it is better that these decisions are taken locally by professionals in daily contact with the patients who will be affected by them, rather than by remote administrators.”
But shadow health secretary John Healey said: “Nobody should be fooled. This letter, led by an ex-Conservative councillor, is part of the Tory spin operation to save the Health Bill.
“Those who have signed the letter are at odds with mainstream doctors, nurses and patients who have serious concerns about the government’s NHS plans.
“As the Royal College of GPs - representing 42,000 GPs - said on Monday, Andrew Lansley’s legislation will fragment patient care and cause irreparable damage to the core values of the NHS.”