There is a deepening split in the position taken by the medical royal colleges towards the Health Bill.

In the past week, two colleges have declared outright opposition, four have expressed significant concerns and two have agreed to work to improve the legislation.

The division has became more prominent after talks last week to build a united front failed.

The moves are adding pressure to the government over the bill, which is already opposed by the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing.

In a poll earlier this month, more than 90 per cent of 2,600 respondents to a Royal College of GPs survey wanted the college to call for the bill’s withdrawal.

There were hopes the major clinical bodies would all reject the bill, ahead of last Thursday’s meeting of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, BMA and Royal College of Nursing.

BMA consultants committee chair Mark Porter told HSJ before the meeting: “This is the time that all healthcare professionals should be making an informed statement rejecting the Health Bill, and that’s what I hope will come out of the summit.”

But, although a statement opposing the bill was drafted by the academy on Tuesday, it was later dropped and the summit did not result in unanimous condemnation of the reforms.

Today, the Royal College of Psychiatrists released a statement called the bill “fundamentally flawed” and saying it was “not able to support the bill as it currently stands”.

Amid pressure from members, the Royal College of Physicians of England has called an extraordinary general meeting for 27 February to discuss whether to oppose the bill.

An email from Royal College of Emergency Medicine president Mike Clancy on Friday, seen by HSJ, highlighted “major concerns” over areas including commissioning arrangements for urgent care and the effect of “any qualified provider” on safe around the clock care.

The Royal College of Radiologists issued a statement on Friday pointing to “grave concerns”, such as the potential for health inequalities under the reforms, and said it opposed the bill.

Members of the Royal College of Anaesthetists have been asked their view. In a statement it said “unfettered competition” would “harm” integrated care and “may impact adversely on the education and training of tomorrow’s doctors”.

Meanwhile, the Faculty of Public Health held an extraordinary general meeting last week, at which 130 out of 183 attendees called for it to demand the withdrawal of the bill. A wider survey of members is now taking place.

However, four colleges have not rejected the bill.

Who backs the bill? Position of Academy of Medical Royal Colleges members*

Opposed

  • Royal College of Psychiatrists Says the bill is “fundamentally flawed”
  • Royal College of Radiologists Has said it “cannot support” the bill

Not opposed

  • Royal College of Pathologists Not opposed outright
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Council has decided to “continue to engage in the parliamentary process”
  • Royal College of Surgeons Wants to stay “within the tent” rather than oppose bill in entirety
  • Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Council held meeting on Friday and decided to work with government not call for bill to be dropped

Undecided

  • Royal College of Physicians Next month’s extraordinary general meeting will ask members whether to call for withdrawal of bill
  • Royal College of Emergency Medicine “Major concerns” over “a number of aspects” of bill
  • Royal College of Anaesthetists Asking members whether it should demand withdrawal of bill
  • Faculty of Public Health Most EGM attendees wanted bill dropped

*Whose positions on the bill were established as HSJ went to press Tuesday 31 January