The results of a survey on medical opinion will be a relief to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley / Getty Images


The first – and, so far, only – properly conducted survey of grass roots medical opinion on the Health and Social Care Bill has revealed that doctors are deeply divided about whether to oppose or work with the Government on NHS reform.

In place of persistent demands for withdrawal of the bill voiced by other medical organisations, members of the Royal College of Physicians are evenly split between those calling for withdrawal of the bill and those favouring "critical engagement" to improve it.

While 69 per cent opposed it, compared with 6 per cent in favour, members of the RCP appear to have put pragmatism before principle.

The result will be a relief to Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, but will undermine attempts to have the Bill thrown out as it enters its final stages in the Lords next week.

The Royal College of Physicians hired the Electoral Reform Society to survey its entire 25,000 strong membership. The results show a response rate of 35 per cent.

The survey also revealed that worry about the Bill does not come top of hospital doctors' concerns. It ranks fourth behind staff shortages, NHS funding and lack of continuity of care.

RCP president Sir Richard Thompson said: "We believe that this is the single biggest survey among the medical royal colleges, with the highest turnout, and while it shows there is a clear majority of RCP's fellows and members who would reject the Bill, opinion is divided almost equally on whether the RCP should continue to critically engage or now call for the withdrawal of the Bill."