PM accused of 'dangerous game of divide and rule' as BMA and nurses excluded from summit over disputed Health Bill
Opponents to Health Bill have been shut out from Downing Street, claims Shadow Health SecretaryHealth Minister accuses Labour of turning NHS reforms into 'game of political football'

Claire Bates

Last updated at 11:00 AM on 20th February 2012

David Cameron was today accused of deepening divisions in the health service after it emerged that opponents of controversial NHS reforms were excluded from a key Downing Street summit.

The Prime Minister will today hold discussions with chairs of the emerging GP-led clinical commissioning groups along with leaders of the Royal Colleges.

However, the British Medical Association
and Royal College of Nursing – who between them represent more than
500,000 medical staff – claim to have been excluded from the

David Cameron, pictured right on a visit to the Royal Victoria Infirmity in Newcastle last week, hopes to prove handing power to GPs will improve care

David Cameron, pictured right on a visit to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle last week, hopes to prove handing power to GPs will improve care


All 152 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England will be scrapped along with the ten Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

In preparation, PCTs have merged into 50 clusters and SHAs have formed four super hubs.

GPs to take over management of 80% of NHS budget from April 2013. Some consortia already set up.

National board will oversee the new system as well as taking charge of specialists' services. Will be headed by Sir David Nicholson who is current NHS chief executive.

Patients allowed to choose where they are treated – including free private care if necessary.

Councils and public given new powers to stop local A&E and maternity units closing.

Far more NHS operations and treatments provided by private companies and charities.

Hit squads of matrons sent into hospitals to check on elderly care.

Mr Lansley has tabled more than 100 amendments to the bill, which has been passed by the Commons, in an effort to push it through the Lords.

Both bodies have been vocal in their opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill and have called on the Commons and the Lords to reject the Bill as it makes its way through the two houses.

Dr Peter Carter, from the RCN, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that holding an 'emergency summit' on the health bill without their presence was not 'a sensible way forward' as they were 'intrinsic to making sure the NHS is successful'.

The BMA said in a statement: 'It would seem odd if the major bodies representing health professionals were not included.'

Labour's 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.'

He added that the major health unions had 'strong and sincerely-held views' about the risks to the NHS from the Government's reorganisation.

'They deserved a hearing – not to have the door of Downing Street shut in their faces,' he said.

He called on Mr Cameron to invite the BMA and RCN along with the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of General Practitioners to the meeting – all of whom oppose the Bill.

Health minister Simon Burns has denied that key bodies were being excluded from talks on the Bill.

He said: 'This (summit) is part of an ongoing dialogue. We have had hundreds of meetings, there have been thousands of people involved in talking and looking into different ways of improving and engaging on the Health Bill.

'That includes the RCN,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Labour leader Ed Miliband (left) and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham during a visit to the Royal Bolton Hospital on Friday. Mr Burnham said opponents to the Bill 'deserved a hearing'

Labour leader Ed Miliband (left) and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham during a visit to the Royal Bolton Hospital on Friday. Mr Burnham said opponents to the Health Bill 'deserved a hearing'

Mr Burns said on this occasion the Government was meeting organisations that were 'constructively involved' in the process.

'The meeting the Prime Minister is having today is simply part of an ongoing dialogue with those who are constructively involved in improving the reforms.'

He warned that 'in some ways this has become a political football'.

However, Downing Street would not confirm who was on the guest list for today's discussions.

At the ‘summit’, the Prime Minister will reveal statistics that show handing power to GPs can transform care and keep patients out of hospital.

He will go on the offensive amid growing demands from doctors and unions to drop the Health and Social Care Bill, now going through the House of Lords.

Department of Health figures show a 0.5 per cent decline in emergency admissions in 2011, compared with a 36 per cent increase between 2001 and 2010.


The BMA says major areas have not been addressed to its satisfaction. These include:

By allowing patients to be treated by 'any qualified provided' Bill threatens to rely too heavily on market forces of supply and demand to shape care

Abolishing cap on amount of income hospitals can raise from private patients could threaten NHS services

Where will money come from for commissioning incentives (rewards for improving patient care)

Concerns about the future delivery of public health and medical education

Mr Cameron will tell the heads of
commissioning boards and some of the royal medical colleges that
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 been set up.

He will point to Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley in Kent, where admissions to hospital of care home patients have been slashed 33 per cent in the past six months.

In Newcastle, the number of patients
admitted with emergency respiratory problems has decreased by 70 per
cent. In Bedfordshire a team has been set up to deal with emergency
calls from care homes, helping reduce hospital visits by 40 per cent.

But Mr Burnham said: 'The reality is that hospitals are under intense pressure as last week's A&E figures continue to show.'