Royal College of Physicians should say it opposes Bill, say fellows

If the college issues a statement after March 19, when debate on the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Commons ends, efforts to survey members "will have been wasted", according to 121 fellows.

They have outlined their concerns in a letter to The Lancet.

Two weeks ago in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 35 fellows and members accused their president, Sir Richard Thompson, of allowing the college to be used as "a political pawn", after he agreed to attend a Number 10 'health summit' about the Bill. Attending, they said, was "a political act".

An extraordinary general meeting of fellows was then convened at which 79 per cent of those present voted, in a non-binding motion, that the college "should call publicly for complete withdrawal" of the Bill. A decision was also taken to survey all 26,000 members worldwide, to close on March 15.

The Lancet letter states: "The RCP must issue a definitive public statement regarding support or opposition based on this ballot on that date.

"Given that debate on this Bill ends on 19th March, we must have assurance that the results will be publicly released before then, otherwise all this effort will have been wasted with significant reputational damage to our College."

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, who signed both letters, said: "The Health Bill will do terrible damage to the NHS and to our patients. And I am confident that will be the verdict of the great majority of College Fellows when the survey result is announced.

"It would be absolutely unacceptable for attempts to be made to water down this opinion, or to keep quiet about it until it is too late to influence the debate on the Bill."

An RCP spokesman said the survey closed at noon on March 15 and the full results would be published the following morning "in time to influence the final stages of the Bill"

The Telegraph