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Crunch time for NHS reforms as opposition strengthens


Britain's royal medical colleges will face intense pressure this week to join the growing clamour from doctors, nurses and MPs for the Government to drop its NHS reforms.

In a crunch week for the NHS, opposition to Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill, which aims to devolve power to frontline GPs, has hardened and could extend to include the entire medical community. Tomorrow, the Commons Health Select Committee is expected to say plans to restructure the NHS are hampering efforts to achieve £20bn efficiency savings by 2014. The committee is understood to say the reorganisation is creating "disruption and distraction" that is hindering consideration of "truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings". Trusts are cutting services to meet budget targets – despite Mr Lansley, pictured, pledging this would not happen.

Yesterday, the leader of England's NHS managers said the NHS was "sleepwalking into some serious difficulties." Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, representing NHS trusts, said the full implications of financial pressures on the service are poorly understood as "politicians are reluctant to stand up and explain them".

He said for the NHS to be sustainable in the long term, people must be honest. Some local hospital services will need to close or move into larger specialist centres, he said.

The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives initially said they would work with ministers on the Bill, but last week, despite a host of concessions by ministers, they called for it to be scrapped.

On Thursday they will seek the support of the royal medical colleges, which normally stay aloof from political rows.