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Prime Minister ‘wrong to claim support’

12 October 2011

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The prime minister was wrong to claim health workers support the government’s health reforms, public health experts have claimed.

A letter to the House of Lords from more than 400 health doctors, specialists and academics warned they fear the Health and Social Care Bill will do “irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual patients and to society as a whole,” and will “erode the NHS’s ethical and co-operative foundations.”

While Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed the letter as “politically motivated” and accused health workers of “signing it without reading it”, David Cameron responded by claiming the letter actually supported “aspects of the bill”.

Neither claim is true, said the public health experts writing in the British Medical Journal.

The writers, who include public health professors Martin McKee and Allyson Pollock and Dr John Middleton, Vice President of the Faculty of Public Health, warn “there are still many problems associated with the bill.”

Of particular concern is the role and accountability of the Secretary of State and a possible “commercialisation era”.

“We believe that the majority of healthcare professions reject this proposed transformation; and are aware of the clinical, professional, and ethical shortcomings of market based health systems such as those that exist in the US,” the authors write.

“The Secretary of State has called for a debate based on evidence. We agree. But this requires transparency about the evidence base and the intentions that have shaped the Bill. 

“So far, the proposed structures do not conform to the goal of a universal and equitable health service.”