123 Fellows Call for Royal College of Physicians to Take Clear Stance on Health Bill
123 Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have written to the Lancet calling on the College to make a clear and timely policy statement opposing the Health and Social Care Bill. The letter follows the RCP Extraordinary General Meeting on 27th February 2012 where an overwhelming majority voted for the RCP publicly to oppose the Government on the Health and Social Care Bill. 
The RCP is currently surveying all Fellows, including those living abroad, and says that it hopes to announce the results on 16th March. The experience of all other Colleges opposing the Bill was that EGMs voting overwhelmingly against it were followed by similarly overwhelming votes against in the wider survey.
The letter says that: “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”.
Apart from supporting a survey of Fellows, those attending the EGM voted on four additional non-binding motions. The results were as follows:
1. considers that the Health and Social Care Bill, if passed, will damage the NHS and the health of the public in England (89% in favour)
2. should call publicly for complete withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill (79% in favour)
3. should seek an alliance with other willing Royal Colleges and NHS stakeholder organisations to call collectively for the withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill (81% in favour)
4. should hold a joint press conference with the BMA and other willing Royal Colleges and NHS stakeholder organisations, to make a joint public statement calling for the Bill to be withdrawn (69% in favour)
The letter also states that: “on 2nd March 2012, a senior officer of the RCP emailed stating `What we need to do is keep our links with government open’ and distancing the RCP from what he called the `overtly political step’ of demanding withdrawal of the Bill”. This does not reflect the voting and discussion at the EGM, which stressed that this is no time for the RCP to sit on the fence”.
The letter calls on the “President and RCP Council to make clear and timely public statements reflecting the views and motions expressed at the EGM and the ongoing ballot before this dangerous Bill becomes Law”.
RCP Fellow Professor Trisha Greenhalgh commented:
“We quite understand that in normal times the RCP needs to keep its lines of communication and discussion open with Government. But these are not normal times. The Health Bill will do terrible damage to the National Health Service 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. We hope and trust that the President and College will recognise the strength of feeling on this issue that the survey is likely to show, and move quickly and decisively to take an active public stance against the Bill.”
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Contact Professor Trisha Greenhalgh 07775 101635 (m) firstname.lastname@example.org
 Full copy of the letter at http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/pdfs/S014067361260364X.pdf Two Fellows have added their support since publication making a final total of 123.