The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for the Health Bill to be withdrawn, claiming the government has largely ignored its concerns.
The RCN, which had not previously opposed the bill as a whole, has shifted its position after failing to influence changes to the reforms.
It said its “serious concerns” have not been addressed during the parliamentary process, listening exercise or political engagement.
The union said it now believes the government’s health reforms will “have the opposite effect from that which was intended”.
“Opposing this bill is not a decision we have taken lightly – we have worked hard on behalf of all our members to influence the decisions that have been taken as the bill has gone through parliament,” said Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN.
“However, it is now clear that these ‘reforms’ are forging ahead on the ground – without the concerns of nurses and other clinicians being heeded
“The RCN has been on record as saying that withdrawing the bill would create confusion and turmoil, however, on the ground, we believe that the turmoil of proceeding with these reforms is now greater than the turmoil of stopping them.
“The sheer scale of member concerns, which have been building over recent weeks, has led us to conclude that the consequences of the bill may be entirely different from the principles which were originally set out.”
Dr Carter also said while the union wasn’t opposed to the principle of competition in the NHS, evidence has shown the balance between competition and quality “can become skewed”.
In another blow to the government, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has also called for the Health Bill to be scrapped, describing the reforms as a “massively expensive distraction”.
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said the union supports many aspects of the bill, including clinically-led commissioning, but argued they can be achieved “without the need for this divisive and costly bill”.
“The government has failed to present sufficient evidence that its proposals are necessary,” said Warwick.
“They have failed to present evidence that the upheaval will result in an improvement in services to the people of England. And, they have failed to answer the concerns of the people who fear for the future of the NHS under these plans.
“Breaking up what we have, embracing the private sector, and injecting full-blown competition and market forces is not what the NHS needs or what health professionals and patients want.
The DH has expressed its "disappointment" over the colleges' decision to move to outright opposition to the bill and criticised the RCN for "confusing" the reforms with efficiency savings.
"We're disappointed that these Royal Colleges have come to this position," said a DH spokesperson in a statement to NiP.
"The RCN has conflated the Health and Social Care Bill with issues about the need for the NHS to spend its money more efficiently. The bill is needed to empower doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers across the NHS to take charge of improving care.
"We will continue to work with nurses and all other health professionals to ensure that the NHS delivers the best possible care for patients."
Question: Are the RCN and RCM right to oppose the Health Bill?
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