The Government must press ahead with its controversial health reforms, the Birmingham head of one of Britain’s biggest hospitals has warned
Dame Julie Moore, chief executive of the trust behind the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, dismissed calls for David Cameron to scrap the Health and Social Care Bill, which has sparked opposition from much of the medical profession, Liberal Democrats and some Conservative activists.
She said it was too late to go back because the old system had already been abolished. The Bill scraps Primary Care Trusts, which commission NHS care on behalf of patients, and replaces them with new bodies led by GPs and other health professionals.
But so much of the old structure had already been scrapped or run down that trying to bring it back would cause as much disruption to the NHS as continuing the reforms, she said.
She warned: “It has gone too far to stop now.”
Dame Julie, who heads University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, was one of a panel of health professionals drafted in by David Cameron to review the Government’s plans after they encountered serious opposition last year.
As part of the NHS “Future Forum”, chaired by Edgbaston-based GP Steve Field, she travelled the country in a six week listening exercise designed to give health workers a say over the changes.
The forum recommended a series of changes in June last year, including measures to prevent private sector healthcare providers “cherry-picking” the most profitable patients, which were accepted by the Government and incorporated into the Bill.
But opposition has flared up again in recent months, with bodies such as the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing opposing the Bill, and even some Tory cabinet ministers reportedly calling in private for the NHS changes to be scrapped.
Although old NHS bodies such as Primary Care Trusts have not yet formally been abolished, the closure process had already begun while the new consortia of GPs and clinicians had been created, Dame Julie said.
“The old structures have already been dismantled. I don’t think it would be possible to get back to the system we had even if we wanted to.
“To scrap the Bill at the moment when the PCTs have gone would cause more problems. We need to work through this now.”
Some opponents of the Bill were concerned that private sector providers would be favoured – but this was actually a problem with the old system, she said.
Dame Julie said: “Most opposition seems to be to the proposals to in some way favour private provision to NHS provision. But I don’t actually think it would be favoured.
“In the past, the independent sector was given more favourable conditions, which people understandably felt was unfair.”
She added: “Even if it was the best reform in the world, people would naturally be concerned about the new structures and their places in it and how it affects their jobs.
“I don’t oppose it because there is some good stuff in it. But did we actually need to have a Bill to get where we are? I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that an internal NHS report has warned that services to patients could suffer during the transition period as the new system is introduced.
A risk assessment by NHS Midlands and the East – a new health authority created by merging West Midlands Strategic Health Authorities with neighbouring authorities – warned that officials were concerned that there could be increased risk of fraud during the transition period, and that “mission critical staff” could leave the health service.
Downing Street has been forced to deny suggestions that Mr Lansley should be sacked and insisted ministers were “fully behind” his NHS reforms.
Mr Cameron is to launch a new offensive to sell the Bill to the public. He said last week that he was “at one” with Mr Lansley and the legislation.