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BMA chair urges government to work to undo damage done by reforms

'Bizarre market culture' created has commissioners scanning the globe for providers for local services

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 23 June 2014

It is not too late to start undoing the damage caused to the NHS through unnecessary reforms, year-on-year cuts and failed ideology, the BMA’s chair of council told more than 500 doctors on the opening day of the BMA’s annual conference in Harrogate.

Dr Mark Porter (pictured) called on the government to “work with us, not against us”, as a BMA survey showed that three in four (73 per cent) of the public feel political parties are designing health policy with a view to winning votes, rather than what is in the best interest of the NHS.

Dr Porter said: “I fear some of our politicians are more interested in the next government than this one. It’s not too late for the government to change. But first, they must face up to the damage that they have done.

He said that the current government had promised to “stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS”. Instead the Health and Social Care Act set in motion a mass reorganisation and created a “bizarre market culture” in which some commissioners go to extraordinary lengths to meet the Government’s competition agenda.

Dr Porter highlighted how commissioners in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes had spent more than £3-million asking 500 providers, including several dissolved trusts in the UK, and clinics around the world, for expressions of interest in running local services:

“They asked Mid-Staffordshire, even though it’s about to be dissolved. They asked South London NHS Trust, even though it already has been dissolved. They asked each one of those 14 trusts they mentioned with higher than expected mortality,” he said.

“They wrote to the usual suspects, of course, the healthcare conglomerates. But they also asked small hospital groups in the mid-west of America who may not have even heard of Bedford, Massachusetts, never mind Bedford, England.

“They wrote to an American provider offering ‘faith-based’ healthcare – as they put their own faith in this bizarre and burdensome approach.

Dr Porter asked the audience to imagine the paperwork and bureaucracy that writing to 500 providers would create. “Let’s imagine the other commissioners that, right now, might well be doing exactly the same.”

He said he sympathised with commissioning managers who were “being driven to distraction by the madness of the market.”

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