A market economy could destroy the NHS and lead to it being run like a ‘shoddy supermarket war’, doctors were warned today.
In an impassioned keynote speech at the opening of the BMA’s annual conference, held this year in Edinburgh, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum (pictured), said commercialism would lead to: ‘competition not collaboration; fragmentation not continuity; inefficiency not efficiency.’
“Not good for doctors, not good for patients, not good for the NHS,” he said.
Speaking to more than 400 UK doctors, Dr Meldrum said: “We’ve had the market in England for nearly 20 years. Where’s the evidence that it works?
“Where’s the balance sheet that shows that the argued-for and promised increase in efficiencies and decrease in costs outweigh the transaction costs and bureaucracy of the market? Show me the evidence that for most of what we do – emergency care, long-term conditions and primary care – the market improves rather than detracts.”
And he urged doctors to look at the Scottish model which operates without a competitive market among healthcare providers.
“The BMA wants to see an NHS untarnished by a market economy, true to its beginnings, giving the public a fair, caring, equitable and cost-effective health service. Not a service run like a shoddy supermarket war. If it can be done here in Edinburgh, it can be done in England.
“Let’s stop pretending that healing the sick is like trading a commodity. Let’s stop diverting doctors’ energies into unholy bidding wars for jobs they already do. Let’s follow the Celtic lead and get rid of the market in healthcare once and for all. What a pity Ara Darzi missed his golden opportunity to do that.”
And he urged politicians to stop ignoring the views of doctors and NHS staff.
“We have had enough, the profession has had enough – worst of all - the NHS has had enough of those who ignore the views of those who are best placed to know what will work and what will not. We’re fed up with politicians only listening to those who tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. And simply appointing a friendly, tertiary surgeon as a minister isn’t the answer”.
And while he said there was much doctors could support in the latest plans for the NHS in England, he reiterated the BMA’s position on polyclinics and highlighted the fact that 1.25 million patients had signed a petition supporting the current model of general practice and against commercial companies providing general practice.
“The message to the government couldn’t be clearer, listen to the doctors, listen to the BMA, above all, listen to the patients of England,” he said.