The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives have stated their ‘outright opposition’ to the NHS reforms.
Although the unions had expressed concerns about the Health and Social Care bill in the past, they had always said they were willing to work with ministers on the current proposal.
But the RCN, which represents 410,000 nurses, midwives, support workers and students, now say that they want the entire bill covering the changes to be dropped.
The decision follows that of the British Medical Association, which represents 130,000 doctors and medical students. It also mirrors the stance adopted by Unison, the body that represents administration and support staff.
But the Health and Social Care bill, currently working its way through Parliament, looks likely to go through regardless of the opposition.
There are still enough GPs supporting the plans to pilot them in 97 per cent of the country, and changes are already being made to pave the way for the new system in 2013.
Under the plans, GPs will be put in charge of much more of the NHS budget. But the most controversial part of the bill is the allowing of NHS hospitals to do 49 per cent of their work in the private sector.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that the RCN and the RCM wanted to ‘have a go’ at the government about their pay and pensions, but Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN, said that the decision to oppose the bill was not taken lightly.
Cathy Warwick, of the RCM, said: "The government has failed to present sufficient evidence that its proposals are necessary. They have failed to present evidence that the upheaval will result in an improvement in services to the people of England.
"And they have failed to answer the concerns of the people who fear for the future of the NHS under these plans."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The bill is needed to empower doctors, nurses, and other front-line healthcare workers across the NHS to take charge of improving care.
"We will continue to work with nurses and all other health professionals to ensure that the NHS delivers the best possible care for patients."
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