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NHS staff reject health white paper

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NHS staff representatives have issued stinging criticisms of the government’s health white paper, LGC’s sister magazine Health Service Journal has reported.

It would be “foolhardy” for shadow GP consortia to form this financial year in the absence of detailed policies, British Medical Association GPs committee deputy chairman Richard Vautrey has cautioned.

He issued the warning at a launch of the BMA’s response to the white paper, which criticises the lack of detail in the government’s plans, particularly around GP commissioning.

While the BMA welcomes devolving spending decisions to clinicians, “there is uncertainty over how PCTs will handle the transition,” its response says.

Asked by HSJ whether white paper plans for GP consortia to establish themselves in shadow form this year were widely achievable, Dr Vautrey said: “It’s far too soon…to lay down foundations that could be changed.

“We haven’t even seen final legislation…We don’t know what the management allowances will be.”

He added: “It would be foolhardy for any organisation to set itself up in such a way that [might not] be cost effective.”

While the first shadow consortia are starting to appear, Dr Vautrey said most GPs were better off using the time to identify who they wanted to work with, while meeting with PCTs and local medical committees.

The BMA’s consultation response also attacks the increasing role for the private sector set out in the white paper, and expresses concern about powers being given to Monitor to promote competition.

Additionally it says it is “essential” that national terms and conditions for NHS staff are protected because “multiple instances of local pay negotiations would be wasteful.”

Unison’s response was similarly fearful over the move away from an “any willing provider” policy.

It states: “There is a danger that if services are put out to tender it will be impossible to bring them back into integrated NHS delivery without major challenges from private companies.”

The union will be in court next Thursday to learn whether or not its requested judicial review into the timing of the white paper will go ahead.

The Royal College of Nursing also submitted its official response this week, welcoming moves to empower frontline clinicians, but warning over the pace and scale of the changes.

Chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter told sister magazine Nursing Times: “We think there’s a real underestimation of the amount of instability this could bring to the system.”

Former health secretary Andy Burnham weighed into the debate last week, ahead of tonight’s expected Labour shadow cabinet announcement.

In a letter to health secretary Andrew Lansley, he wrote: “Your plans are completely unacceptable to us and if you proceed on the basis you have set out, we will launch a major campaign in every community.”

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