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BMA calls on health secretary to join public debate on healthcare delivery

NHS leaders, patients, and doctors will all be invited to November symposium

Caroline White

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The BMA has invited the health secretary Jeremy Hunt to take part in a public debate on the quality and consistency of healthcare delivery across the week.

Healthcare leaders, practitioners, and representatives from patient organisations and professional bodies are all expected to attend the symposium, which the BMA is hoping to stage before the end of this year, ideally in November.

The invitation, which was prompted by the issues that came to the fore during the junior doctors’ dispute with the government over their new contract, follows the BMA’s decision to abandon its planned series of five-day strikes, starting next month.

In a letter sent yesterday to the health secretary, BMA Council Chair, Dr Mark Porter, and Junior Doctors’ Committee Chair Dr Ellen McCourt wrote that the quality and consistency of health care delivered across the week “has been the subject of intense debate” over the past year. 

“Many of the arguments have become polarised and so have not helped to engage the public and patients in the fundamental questions about the nature and scope of the care which we all expect from the health service now and into the future,” they said.

“Many of the issues about the standards of care provided as and when needed by patients have been brought to the fore by the junior doctors’ dispute, such as the engagement or alienation of those providing care and the potential impact on those for whom they care.”

Suggesting that the health secretary might be surprised to receive an invitation to debate these issues from the BMA, the letter’s signatories declare that it is made in good faith, “with the aim of addressing those aspects of patient care which we all want to improve.” 

They end the letter with a plea: “We hope that you will accept [the invitation] and work with us and the range of partners critical to agreeing and delivering the necessary solutions to the urgent issues and choices facing the country.”

Commenting on the invitation, Dr McCourt said: “For many people, the junior doctor dispute has highlighted the need for an open and honest debate about how the NHS can deliver high quality care across the week. 

“Over the past year, junior doctors across the country have raised concerns about the reality of caring for patients in a health service under mounting pressures and the impact on their working lives and morale.”

Meanwhile, the outcome of the judicial review into the legality of the enforced imposition of the junior doctors’ contract is expected to be made public later today.

The legal challenge, which was brought by a group of five junior doctors, under the banner of campaign group Justice for Health, was funded with £300,000 from over 10,000 donations raised through the online crowd-funding platform CrowdJustice.

Justice for Health claims that the health secretary acted outside of his powers; that he failed in his duty of clarity to parliament and the public; and that he had been irrational in his decision making.

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