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Government sticking ‘its head in the sand’ over NHS, BMA says

Queen’s speech includes nothing to show the government plans to act on the crisis facing the NHS

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Queen’s speech, delivered yesterday to outline the government’s planned legislation for the next parliamentary session, contained no acknowledgement of the fact that the NHS is at “breaking point", the BMA says.

The focus of the speech, which laid out the plans for a prolonged parliamentary session of two years, was on leaving the EU through legislation to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972.

Many of the pledges outlined in the Conservative Party, including plans to fund social care through sale of property after a person’s death, a policy dubbed the “dementia tax,” were absent. Instead the government has promised a consultation on improving social care.

The only new health legislation outlined is a patient safety bill to establish a Health Service Safety Investigation Body to improve patient safety in the NHS.

The government will also review mental health legislation, including why increasing number of people are detained, and ‘consider what further reform’ might be needed.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “There is a crisis unfolding in our NHS and there was simply no acknowledgement of this today. Services are at breaking point, yet the government has chosen to stick its head in the sand, ducking the big issues undermining the delivery of care.

“Doctors prioritise patient safety, but the government’s choice to provide less funding than the health service needs is compromising safe staffing levels.

“Many hospital departments and GP surgeries have numerous unfilled vacancies. Junior doctors try to cope with rota gaps on a daily basis. This creates a vicious circle, adding to existing pressures on doctors, further increasing the risk of burnout and making whole areas of medicine less attractive to doctors in training. A government that is serious about strengthening patient safety would listen, recognise the desperate need to attract more doctors in key areas and act. It must also end the public sector pay cap by which NHS staff pay is cut every year.

“Mental health services too are in desperate need of investment. There are promises of more money but not enough action.” He added: “Until the government guarantees extra funding, the measures outlined in this speech will not have the necessary impact.”

Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive Jeremy Hughes welcomed the pledge for a consultation on social care, but warns that the promise of a consultation cannot be used to delay action. “Every week, hundreds of thousands of people with dementia are already paying through the nose for the basic care they need to live day-to-day,” he said.

“The dementia tax debate and ensuing election result sent a thundering message to the prime minister that empty promises and platitudes won’t suffice. The public simply won’t accept a drawn out consultation that leads to no resolution. We have waited long enough for action and workable solutions. The prime minister should recognise there is support across all political parties for action on dementia.

“A long-term solution for social care must create a fair and transparent division of responsibility between government and the individual.”

Picture credit: Lorna Roberts / Shutterstock.com

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