‘It is essential that the Health Bill is scrapped. Unison is completely opposed to the Health Bill. We are right behind the doctors who wrote that letter.’
A Unison spokeswoman was responding to a powerful letter denouncing the Health Bill, ‘Fragmenting the NHS’, written by 365 doctors, which appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The letter was written in response to an earlier letter by a much smaller group of GPs which claimed that doctors supported the Tory-LibDem attack.
Yesterday’s letter read: ‘Sir – The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) leaders who support the Health and Social Care Bill (Letters, January 28) do not represent the majority of GPs, who believe that the Bill will seriously damage patient care.
‘More than 90 per cent of GPs polled by the Royal College of General Practitioners said that the Bill should be withdrawn.
‘The NHS is not in peril if these reforms don’t go ahead. On the contrary, it is the Bill which threatens to derail and fragment the NHS into a collection of competing private providers.
‘The Bill will result in hundreds of different organisations pulling against each other, leading to fragmentation, chaos and damage to the quality and availability of patient care. . .
‘Drop the Bill and let’s work on the real issues: improving safety, efficiency, and quality of care.’
The letter was signed: ‘Dr David Jenner, Lead, Eastern Devon CCG, Dr Marek Koperski, Camden CCG, Dr Brian Fisher, Dr Louise Irvine, London SE14, and 361 others.’
BMA Council member Anna Athow told News Line: ‘Doctors are very angry that their views have been misrepresented. There is overwhelming opposition to this government’s attacks on the health service.
‘Health unions must initiate a joint public campaign to defeat the bill through industrial action.
‘The TUC’s NHStogether should be revamped and a day of action organised with a huge demonstration and rally calling on the entire trade union movement to support it.
‘The Bill cannot be fought in words and backroom meetings.
‘We do not have to accept this Bill and the trade union movement has to take on and defeat this government which is wrecking the best public national health service in the world.’
The GPs’ letter appeared on the same day that a private company became the first to start running an NHS hospital.
Privateer ‘Circle’ took over the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Cambridgeshire in a £1bn, 10-year deal yesterday, claiming it will make the hospital more ‘efficient’ and pay off its ‘£40m of debts’.
The Unison spokeswoman told News Line: ‘We are opposed in principle to this takeover, absolutely. We’ve said before we’re very worried about the private sector coming in.
‘We think the patients must always come first, but when private companies come in they always put profits first.’
Karen Jennings, Unison assistant general secretary, said: ‘We want, above all, to make sure Hinchingbrooke remains a good hospital – delivering for patients and investing in staff.
‘We will work with Circle to achieve that. But we know that many patients and staff will be worried today about a private company coming in to run their local hospital.
‘And rightly so. Circle has never run an A&E or maternity ward, and its only other hospital has just 16 beds, and provides non-urgent surgery.’