Cameron Holds Health Bill Summit As Critics Accuse Government Of Playing 'Divide And Rule'
David Cameron will attempt to shore up support for the Government's controversial NHS reforms today with a Downing Street summit on moves to give GPs more power over local health services. But some of the biggest critics of the Health and Social Care Bill have been left out in the cold.
The Prime Minister and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will hold a roundtable discussion with chairs of the emerging GP-led clinical commissioning groups and leaders of the Royal Colleges.
Amid intense pressure from many professional bodies to drop the Health and Social Care Bill, Cameron will say patients are already beginning to see the fruits of greater GP influence - a key plank of the reforms - in areas where clinical commissioning groups have already been set up.
He will point to evidence that emergency hospital admissions have fallen year-on-year for the first time as GPs have begun to be more central to shaping care for patients and the NHS has moved away from Labour's "targets" culture to the coalition's emphasis on "outcomes".
Department of Health figures show a 0.5% decline in emergency hospital admissions in 2011, compared with a 36% increase between 2001 and 2010.
Lansley said: "We have always been clear that patients will benefit from putting power in the hands of frontline doctors and nurses.
"By starting to do just that, we are seeing a positive change in the way our NHS is responding to rising pressures.
"Patients are being treated in more convenient places, pressure on hospitals is reducing, and we are safeguarding the NHS for future generations."
Monday's gathering has attracted controversy after a number of bodies critical of the NHS reforms said they had not been invited.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would be "odd" if organisations representing health professionals were not invited to the summit.
"The BMA does not appear to have been invited to an NHS summit at Downing Street," a spokesman said.
"If there is such an event, it would seem odd if the major bodies representing health professionals were not included."
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), another opponent of the Bill, said it had not been invited either, adding it was "extremely concerning".
Ed Miliband has accused Cameron of having a "bunker mentality" and said he should drop the bill.
Today the Prime Minister is holding a Downing Street summit which excludes those from the medical profession who disagree with his Bill," he said.
"I have to say I think this bunker mentality is the wrong way to run the NHS. It’s not too late to start listening to the doctors, the nurses and the midwives. It’s not too late to listen to patients.
"His bill will cause lasting damage to the NHS, it will divert billions from patient care and undermine our health service’s basic principles. "
On Sunday Labour accused Cameron of playing "divide and rule".
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "The NHS means too much to too many people for the government to play this dangerous game of divide and rule.
"People have strong and sincerely-held views about the risks to the NHS from the government's re-organisation. They deserve a hearing - not to have the door of Downing Street shut in their faces."
Cameron reaffirmed his support for the Bill last weekend after reports that three Tory Cabinet ministers were against the Bill and influential website Conservative Home urged him to drop it.
He insisted he was "at one" with his beleaguered Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
More than 147,000 people, including footballer Rio Ferdinand and TV star and author Stephen Fry, have signed an e-petition calling for the Bill to be dropped.
The Royal College of Nursing said it had not been invited.
Chief executive Peter Carter told Sky News: "We don't know why we haven't been invited but we, like others, find it extraordinary because at the end of the day, it's nurses, doctors, physios, GPs that actually keep the health service going.
"So whoever advised the Prime Minister that by excluding these groups would be the way forward, I would say they've given him poor advice...
"Anyone who's opposed the Bill seems to have been excluded and we would say that's not a very sensible way to move forward."
The TUC accused Cameron of "only listening to those who will tell him what he wants to hear".
Deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "If the Prime Minister genuinely wants to consult again with health professionals on his NHS reforms, hastily convening a meeting with the few doctors' representatives who have not yet called for the Bill to be scrapped is not the way to go about it.
"He is excluding those representing the one and a quarter million nurses, midwives, porters, cleaners, physios, paramedics and others who have just as crucial a part to play in the NHS and whose views are just as important.
"The Prime Minister is becoming more like the the emperor with no clothes - only listening to those who will tell him what he wants to hear."
So who is invited and who is not invited to the summit? Ben Goldacre has provided an instructive list in which he notes that those in the room tolerate the bill while those not on the list oppose it.