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Doctors call for withdrawal of health reforms

BMA poll reveals high level of concern about NHS shake-up

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Health and Social Care Bill should be withdrawn or completely revamped.

This is the message from the British Medical Association following new feedback from members revealing a ‘high level of concern’ about the reforms to the English NHS.

In its formal submission to the NHS Future Forum, the body leading the government’s listening exercise on the reforms, the BMA says the legislation represents “an enormous risk” during a time of huge financial pressure for the NHS.

In its own recommendations the BMA calls for greater collaboration saying this would improve quality and efficiency rather than the current proposal to increase and enforce competition.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: “The message from doctors is clear and simple – the Bill must be changed significantly, if not withdrawn altogether, if the NHS is to continue to improve. We are right in the thick of the challenges the NHS faces, and while change is necessary, this major upheaval is not.

“We know that the NHS has to become more efficient, that chronic illness is growing, and that we need a step change in improvements in public health. Increasing and enforcing competition is not the answer – competition is not an end in itself. Instead, we are putting forward recommendations that aim to maximise the potential for positive change in the proposals, by genuinely giving more say to patients and to clinicians at the front line.”

Over 80% of BMA members who completed the feedback form said their attitude to the reforms was either mostly or very unwelcoming. When asked which area of the reforms was potentially the most damaging, just over half identified the powers to be given to NHS economic regulator Monitor to promote competition.

The BMA submission to the Future Forum calls for “a more mature form of commissioning” based on clinical networks of specialists and primary care professionals working together across traditional boundaries, alongside commissioning consortia.

The BMA is also today publishing new guidance putting forward examples of possible models for the governance of consortia and advising that, as a minimum, specialists should be involved in the design of patient pathways.

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