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Peter Carter: Coalition MPs could turn against health bill


The Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive has said the government’s health bill can still be defeated, even though the prime minister has reiterated his support for the reforms.

The RCN and Royal College of Midwives, along with the other groups most strongly opposed to the bill, were excluded from a health summit held by David Cameron on Monday.

Mr Cameron said at the meeting the bill would be passed despite opposition. It has yet to pass its report stage in the Lords and, afterwards, has to be voted on by MPs in the Commons.

Speaking after the Downing Street event, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter told Nursing Times that Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs were increasingly worried about it.

Mr Carter said this feeling could increase because further medical royal colleges – including the influential Royal College of Physicians – could decide they are completely against the bill in coming weeks. He said it meant pressure on the government to abandon it was still growing, and opponents’ calls for it to be dropped could still succeed.

TheRoyal College of Paediatrics and Child Health today joined those colleges calling for the bill to be withdrawn. The decision was taken by the RCPCH’s council following a survey of UK members which saw 79% of respondents vote for the college to call for the “outright withdrawal” of the bill rather than continue to push for amendments.

Mr Carter said: “If more and more [colleges] come out against the bill, it becomes difficult for the government increasingly. It becomes more and more difficult to be dismissive [of opponents].”

Mr Carter said numerous backbench coalition MPs had told the RCN privately they were “confused” about the reason for the reforms, particularly as the NHS was not a major election issue.

He said: “Politicians from right across the spectrum speak with us… A lot of people are thinking, ‘Should we have gone down this route – was it worth it?’

“There is pointed concern even from party stalwarts about whether they have got it wrong.

“Most are keeping their own council but privately more than a dozen have said to us, ‘Yes, this is perplexing.’”

Responding to his exclusion from the Downing Street summit, Mr Carter said he believed the RCN would be involved in future discussions. He said: “This is short term in the sense they are disappointed with us and we are disappointed with them.

“But I’ve got no doubt that in order to move forward all of the organisations that were not invited have to be engaged. It is just not a sensible way forward [to exclude groups].”


Readers' comments (22)

  • tinkerbell

    Mr Carter said numerous backbench coalition MPs had told the RCN privately they were “confused” about the reason for the reforms, particularly as the NHS was not a major election issue

    Well they've certainly made it one now. I don't doubt these reforms will be pushed through and once people realise the impact it will have on them personally when they visit their GP or ever need to be admitted to hospital/surgery and have to wait ad infinitum, because there are no beds or they're all clogged up with private patients then it will become a 'major election issue'.

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  • If the politicians run true to form, they will do whatever it takes to save their seats in parliment.

    Therefore, if they feel the will of the voting public is against them, they will desert this particular sinking ship in their droves.
    (Oh, and I expect DC to do his "Italian Captain" impression as well, leaving Landsley playing the fiddle on the decks while the ship goes down)

    Let`s hope they do so before it is too late.

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  • tinkerbell

    Tipperary Tim | 23-Feb-2012 2:51 pm

    Yeah i hope so before i lose all faith in human nature. I don't want to end up bitter, twisted and cynical in my old age but it's certainly happening lately. No, there are more than a few good men/women out there thank God.

    Cameron will most likely leave Lansley holding the baby as it is Lansley will will take the rap, as in the 'Lansley rap' you tube.

    Otherwise we will be having the NHS riots on our streets and be pelted with rubber bullets and water canons, doesn't make good press seeing nurses and doctors hosed down and not much of a vote winner I wouldn't have thought. I will ensure i wear good water proof, padded clothing for such an event.

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  • tinkerbell | 23-Feb-2012 3:12 pm

    Problem is Tink, that DC has invested so much in this bill, it is getting to the stage where it would be political suicide for him to concede he has been wrong all along.

    So, whatever the consequesnces, he will push ahead rather than lose his job, which is very important to a Millionairre after all !!!

    What was the old WW1 adage "Lions lead by Lambs??? In this case Lions lead by idiots !!!!!!!!!!!!!"

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  • tinkerbell

    Tipperary Tim | 23-Feb-2012 3:31 pm

    I don't care how much they try to save face so long as we save OUR NHS. As i have given up swearing for lent they can 'Velcro Off' as far as i'm concerned.

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  • but their main concern is for themselves, personal pride and their jobs. it has gone too far now probably for DC to back out or admit he has been wrong. The way he has disregarded the opinion of the professionals and ignored the RCN and the public he has probably lost face with them already but is not prepared to give in. It will be interesting to see what happens at the 11th hour.

    The Royal College of Paediatricians have just voted to drop the bill as well also believing it raises safety concerns for patients. Reported in DT this morning.

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  • “Health bill: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health calls for withdrawal

    The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has called on the Government to withdraw the health bill after its president attended a Downing Street summit and appeared to back the bill.

    By Stephen Adams
    12:37PM GMT 23 Feb 2012

    Members who voted did so by almost four-to-one (79 per cent) in favour of "outright withdrawal" of the Health and Social Care Bill.
    The decision is another blow to the Prime Minister and Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who have vowed to press on with Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords.

    The paediatricians join - amongst others - the Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nurses, and the Faculty of Health, in calling for the Bill to be dropped.

    Doctors are concerned it could harm patient care and lead to increasing privatisation of NHS services, fears dismissed by the Government.
    Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the RCPCH, said: "It is clear that a substantial majority of our voting members believe that the Health and Social Care Bill carries risk for children and young people.”

    The rest of the article at

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  • tinkerbell | 23-Feb-2012 4:31 pm

    I agree Tink, unfortunately politicians do not think as we do, and their first instinct is self-preservation, at any cost, including our NHS.

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  • tinkerbell

    Tipperary Tim | 23-Feb-2012 4:51 pm

    Well T. Tim i'm up for it. Know it will get worse before it gets better so mentally armed, not expecting anything from them so can't be disappointed, but we will not be beaten. Like the fiesty old gal Joan said 'if they won't listen then we have to shout'. As the lovely, brave Marie Colvin (RIP) said 'if you are angry about an injustice then make an angry sound.'

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  • How about doing everything in reverse? The NHS staff and the public could produce a bill to reform government before it reforms the NHS.

    We would need a panel of experts formed by front line clinical and non clinical staff and members of the public, preferably without experience or a vested interested in politics. We would need a leader from senior management with a notion of economics and who must be a connoisseur of all the different types of coffee beans from around the world, but who must have no political affiliations or experience in this field. Only those with excellent communication/listening/proactively skills need apply.

    A team of nurses, other healthcare professionals and non clinical staff elected by the panel will spend a day in parliament to tell them how to tidy up and work more efficiently. They will use their own judgement and no tick box questionnaires will be provided and use of clipboards and biros or felt tipped pens will be prohibited. Handbags will be checked and these and high heels will be left at the front door. Skirts will be below the knee and no low cut tops or more than discrete makeup to prevent any distractions or influence over the male politicians. This will all be checked for approval at the door.

    All front line workers in parliament will be consulted and carefully listened too for their expert opinion and experience and action must be taken on any discussions with them. Senior politicians such as Mr Cameron and Mr Lansley will be excluded from all discussion.

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