Royal College opposes U.K. health reforms

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) has joined the ranks of U.K. organizations opposing the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill first introduced in Parliament more than a year ago.

The proposed healthcare reform legislation has been in flux since it was introduced on 19 January 2011, with potentially more changes to come. Andrew Lansley, the coalition government's health secretary, is planning to propose 200 amendments to it this week, as reported by the Guardian on 30 January. Lansley's reforms will abolish two major tiers of health services bureaucracy and devolve greater responsibility for commissioning care to general practice physicians, according to the newspaper.

On 27 January, the RCR sent a special bulletin to its 8,900 members, stating its opposition to the legislation in its current form.

Grave concerns about the proposed bill include the following.

  • The risk of widespread and potentially embedded health inequalities across the National Health Service (NHS).

  • The impact of "unfettered competition as outlined in the bill" that would adversely affect integrated care in both clinical radiology and clinical oncology. Procuring radiology from different sources would have a hugely detrimental impact on integration and add costs to the NHS, RCR stated. In addition, fragmentation would negatively impact the capacity for a tertiary specialty to deliver coherent care locally. As an example, it stated that "the excellent national coordinated patterns of care" for cancer patients would be undone.

  • By altering the status of the NHS as a provider of choice, the opening of services to the European Union competition law would have serious implications for the provision of care.

  • Workflow flexibility would be at severe risk of being reduced by local commissioning.

The RCR also expressed its concern about consequences on education and training, and lack of clarity over the role of medical specialties if the legislation passed in its current form.

The special bulletin announced that a meeting for RCR's members and fellows to discuss the proposed bill will be held on 16 February 2012 in London. It may be read in its entirety on the RCR website.

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