What do you do when people disagree with you? Well, excluding them is one option. David Cameron is holding a special summit on the NHS bill today — very special, as it will only include medical colleges and health practitioners that back the bill.
Strikingly, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners have not been invited, despite the fact that the centrepiece of the bill is giving more power to GPs.
This graphic by Ben Goldacre sums up the invite list:
Downing Street has acknowledged that the guest list is built around supporters of the health bill, stressing that the discussion today is about how to implement the health bill, not about amending or abandoning it. On that basis, they said, there is little point inviting those who have opposed the reform from the start.
However, Cameron has been accused of playing divide and rule with health practitioners. Peter Carter, the head of the Royal College of Nursing was incredulous: “We don’t know why we haven’t been invited but we, like others, find it extraordinary because at the end of the day, it is nurses, doctors, physios, GPs that actually keep the health service going.”
The Prime Minister, who has taken personal responsibility for pushing the changes through, will make it clear today that he believes that it is too late to change course. While excluding dissenting groups may be expedient, such tactics are unlikely to go down well with the public: a Unite/YouGov poll found that six times as many people trust health professionals over Cameron and Andrew Lansley on NHS reorganisation (60 per cent and 10 per cent respectively). Labour has opened up a 15 point lead over the Tories on the NHS. Fifty-nine per cent of people already feel that Cameron has not honoured his pre-election promises on the NHS. Visibly going against the will of medical professionals could seriously compound that loss of trust.