The third (final) reading of the Health and Social Care / Destroy the NHS Bill is due in the coming week with a vote on Wednesday.
There are protests this weekend expressing opposition to the privatisation of the NHS.
Many professional medical associations – including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practicioners, the Royal College of Nursing and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists – have restated their opposition to the plans.
These organisations are clearly knowledgable and authoritative on the issues and should be trusted in preference to dodgy, lying politicians that claim to love the NHS, that the NHS is safe in their hands and that there will be no more top-down reorganisations.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
The UK must not follow the US model of healthcare as it would risk widening health inequalities, increasing costs and fragmenting care, the RCGP chairwoman has warned
RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said her recent study trip to the USA to look at how the ‘biggest market in the world affects the deliver of healthcare’ has made her ‘nervous’ about the direction of the NHS reforms to increase competition in the NHS.
She said it also bolstered her view that the NHS is the ‘most remarkable system of healthcare’.
She said: ‘Where as in the past I thought some aspects were quite reasonable, I came away with the view that actually it is not a system at all.
‘It’s a series of providers that aren’t linked to any shape or form, with resources not necessarily going into patient contacts and instead spent on administering this bureaucratic system.’
She warned that moving to a US-style system would lead to a fragmented and more costly system, where accountants, lawyers and actuaries are ‘as common as hospital managers and GPs’.
She said the US system also creates huge health inequalities, where the ‘rich have choice’ but 70 million people have no access to healthcare or are uninsured.
She said: ‘I am convinced the NHS should be improved, but we should always strike to improve what matters cost: continuity of care, co-ordination of services and quality.
‘But if people think that the market will deliver that, I urge them to see what I saw, which is that the market fails.’
Hospitals will be forced to treat wealthy foreigners to raise cash, rather than treat poor patients, says BMA’s Hamish Meldrum
Meldrum said David Cameron had been mistaken when in a speech in Cornwall last month the prime minister claimed that his plans to change the NHS beyond recognition had “the whole health profession on board”.
“I don’t know where the prime minister gets his information from to make that statement. I can only imagine he must be taking to a completely unrepresentative group of clinicians,” said Meldrum.
The BMA says it “acknowledges the efforts of government to listen” but that the government’s changes either do not alter the fundamental problems with the bill or they make it worse. Meldrum pointed out that a new NHS bureaucracy was springing up with five different bodies able to buy care for patients. He also argued that the choice and competition agenda of the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, remained intact.
The BMA chairman said he was especially concerned that surgeons’ pay would be related to medical outcomes and that family doctors would be paid on how well they commissioned care for patients. This would penalise GPs and hospitals in poorer areas where residents’ health was related to transport, housing and employment. “Doctors in well-off areas would benefit and those in poor areas would not.”
He also argued that articulate middle-class patients would be able to take advantage of the patient choice policy. “Those who are articulate and shout loudest will tend to get better care. The less well-off patient will not. This will see an increase in health inequality.”
John Healey, the shadow health secretary, said that despite the government’s claims to have listened, Meldrum’s comments showed that “the chorus of concern among health service professionals is as loud as ever”.
Healey said: “With doctors and nurses now hardening their position, it is clear that David Cameron is in denial and out of touch when he claims his NHS plans have widespread support. After a wasted year, during which time we’ve seen patient services starting to go backwards, the prime minister should scrap both the bill and his massive reorganisation plans.”
The CSP is among the health organisations continuing to campaign against the government’s plans for reform of the NHS as the Health and Social Care Bill continues its passage through parliament.
Ahead of the third reading of the bill in the Commons, which is due to start on 6 September, the British Medical Association (BMA) chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum called for the bill to be withdrawn or significantly amended as it posed an ‘unacceptably high risk to the NHS’.
In a letter sent to all MPs, Dr Meldrum said a key risk was the plan to widen patient choice to ‘Any Qualified Provider’ (AQP) across a larger range of services. It reflects a concern that the CSP’s chief executive, Phil Gray, has been raising for some time.
The CSP issued a briefing for MPs on members’ concerns in August, in time for the third reading. It is also working alongside the BMA in its opposition to the bill and has stepped up its campaign against the extension of AQP to include most NHS-funded services by 2013/14.
MSK services for back and neck pain have been highlighted by the Department of Health as a priority for the scheme. The society has published a members’ briefing outlining how physios can get involved in influencing the decisions currently being made locally on AQP.