A group of leading public health specialists has written to the prime minster claiming the Health Bill will widen health inequalities, and should be reconsidered or withdrawn.

The seven past presidents of the Faculty of Public Health argue in the letter to David Cameron – seen by HSJ – that the proposals in the bill “will disrupt and de-stabilise the health service and exacerbate inequalities in the health of the population of England”.

They argue that the legislation as it stands “sets the scene for an unprecedented marketisation” of the NHS, which will “promote competition at the expense of collaboration”.

They write: “Differences between healthcare providers – public sector, commercial or other – will disrupt coherent workforce planning and create barriers to comprehensive professional training.”

Additionally, they warn that the transfer of commissioning from primary care trusts to clinical commissioning groups will produce a “patchwork quilt” health system that varies hugely across the country. This is likely to fail to meet the diverse needs of the population and undermine the health of vulnerable, minority groups, they say.

“Regrettably, the proposed new national public health service (Public Health England), as an executive agency of the Department of Health without an independent chair and board, will be in no position to challenge this deplorable state of affairs,” the letter adds.

They warn: “We feel that this bill not only poses a major threat to the integrity and cohesion of the NHS, but also is likely to widen inequalities in health and healthcare. We hope that the government will reconsider, and withdraw it.”

The seven signatories of the letter (attached, right) are: Professor Alwyn Smith; Dr June Crown; Professor Rod Griffiths; Professor Sian Griffiths; Professor Walter Holland; Professor Alan Maryon-Davis; and Professor James McEwen.

The letter follows a survey carried out in November by the Faculty of Public Health of nearly 1,000 of its members regarding the bill.

The results showed that 81 per cent of respondents disagreed that the bill would reduce inequalities in access to healthcare, while 71 per cent of respondents disagreed that it would create a safer and more effective response to public health emergencies.