More than 150 paediatricians are calling on the Government to scrap its controversial Health Bill, saying it will have an “extremely damaging effect” on the health of children.
In a damning letter to The Lancet medical journal, members of the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said there was “no prospect” of improving the Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through Parliament.
And they accused the Government of “misrepresenting” the Bill as being something that was necessary for the NHS.
The signatories join several Royal Medical Colleges, including the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Radiologists, in calling for the Bill to be scrapped.
The move will increase pressure on the Government over the reforms, which have come under repeated fire from healthcare professionals.
Unions, including the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) are among those calling for the Bill to be withdrawn.
The letter said that “if passed, we believe that the Bill will have an extremely damaging effect on the health care of children and their families and their access to high-quality, effective services”.
It added: “We see no prospect for improvement to the Bill sufficient to safeguard the rights of access to health care by children and their families.
“In our view, no adequate justification for the Bill has been made.
“The costs of dismantling existing National Health Service (NHS) structures are enormous and, at a time of financial austerity for all public services, have resulted in precious resources being diverted to private management firms and away from frontline patient care.
“We believe that the Bill will undermine choice, quality, safety, equity, and integration of care for children and their families.”
The signatories said the NHS already “outperforms most other health systems internationally and is highly efficient” and expressed fears over the potential role of private companies in managing groups of GPs, who will control most of the NHS budget, under the new system.
They added: “Competition-based systems are not only more expensive and less efficient but are associated with gross inequality in perinatal and child health outcomes, including child safeguarding.
“Far from enabling clinicians to control and determine local services, the new commissioning proposals are more likely to lead to increased power for private management organisations attracted to this lucrative opportunity to manage small Clinical Commissioning Groups.”
The letter said using multiple private companies “will make it difficult to innovate, co-operate, plan, and improve the quality in children’s services”.
They warn care will “become more fragmented” and families and clinicians will struggle to organise services for children.
“Children with chronic disease and disability will particularly suffer, since most have more than one condition and need a range of different clinicians.
“If different services are commissioned from separate providers, this risks the breakdown of the relationships that underpin good communication and co-ordination, particularly where different aspects of service are provided from different budgets.”
Safeguarding of children will “become even more difficult” when services are put out to competitive tender and organisations “compete instead of co-operate”.
“Children who are vulnerable, neglected, or abused will inevitably slip through the net.”
More than 130,000 people have now signed an e-petition calling for the Bill to be scrapped.