- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
BMA warns that proposals to replace NHS Litigation Authority with private model ‘mimics worst aspects of US healthcare’
Potentially life-saving procedures could disappear from the health service because the high risks involved will force doctors to take out unaffordably expensive medical insurance, the British Medical Association has warned after it emerged that the NHS compensation fund may be privatised to curb the burgeoning cost of medical litigation.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information act show that last October officials in the Cabinet Office drew up a “business assessment” for the NHS Ligation Authority (NHSLA), which pays out legal fees and compensation claims in medical negligence cases, for a “credible business plan” that would be an “alternative to [the] existing service delivery model”.
The plan says the Confederation of British Industry has identified the litigation authority as a “potential opportunity” and suggests the “need for a joint venture partner” that could provide “investment, expertise, access to markets”. A month later the authority, which paid out £1bn last year in compensation – up from £280m in 2001 – was asked about pursuing a course of “mutualisation”.
Doctors’ leaders said any move towards a privatised model would mimic the worst aspects of US healthcare. In America there are well-documented cases where physicians simply do not take up jobs in risky specialisms such as obstetrics, where the cost of insuring operations are too high or where insurance companies fail to honour their moral obligations to pay out.
Private clinics which fitted women with faulty breast implants have a “straightforward” legal duty to rectify the problem, politicians and lawyers have said.
Cosmetic surgery firms claim that the Government has a “moral responsibility” to pay for surgery to replace the French-made implants, because health regulators failed to identify the problem.
Earlier this week Mel Braham, chairman of Harley Medical Group, said clinics were “as much an innocent party” as patients were.
But Lord Howe, the Health Minister, yesterday (Thurs) told fellow peers: “We believe that private practitioners have in many instances a legal duty and certainly a moral duty to address these matters on behalf of their patients.”
Lawyers acting for women fitted with the implants, made by French firm Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), said the clinics had a “statutory duty” under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, to ensure the products they supplied were of “satisfactory quality”.
PIP’s implants were banned in 2010 when it emerged industrial-grade silicon had been used in them, even though they were sold as containing medical-grade silicon. Until then surgery firms were unaware of the fraud.
But Hugh Preston, a barrister at 7 Bedford Row in London, representing a number of women fitted with PIP implants, said: “This is not just a moral duty, but a legal one, and it is irrelevant whether the clinic in question is personally at fault for the product failure.
“All that matters is that the product is of unsatisfactory quality.”
Explaining the law, he said: “The patient has a straightforward claim against a provider of substandard goods for breach of contract, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
“In any contract that involves the sale of a product, the product has to be of satisfactory quality. That’s exactly the same for whatever product a consumer buys, be it a toaster, a fridge, a car, or medical product.
“That is a statutory duty that the seller can’t get out of.”
Many GPs are privately considering leaving their commissioning roles due to widespread disillusionment and distrust, the Chair of the NHS Alliance has claimed.
In his New Year message to NHS Alliance members, Dr Michael Dixon said current proposals for the National Commissioning Board will not allow CCGs the freedom to create an NHS run from general practice.
Rather, a “command and control environment” will be created and run from Whitehall – ensuring primary care “remains as the junior partner in NHS change”.
“Reports of a Commissioning Board with chief professional officers, senior clinical managers and National Clinical Directors are not promising and mention of a primary care clinician as a Deputy Medical Director seems frankly insulting,” he said.
In other news:
David Cameron has moved to distance himself from a ‘Top Gear’ India special in which Jeremy Clarkson and his co-presenters lampooned Indian culture.
Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister “did not like” the 90 minute programme, which was broadcast twice over Christmas, and stressed he had “the utmost respect” for the people of India.
The comments came after MPs warned the offence caused by the programme threatened Britain’s vitally important trading relationship with India.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed yesterday how the Indian High Commission in London had formally complained about the programme, and accused the BBC of deceiving it about the nature of what it planned to broadcast.
The Prime Minister appeared at the start of the programme , waving to the three presenters in Downing Street, and urging them to “stay away from India”. The presenters also read out a letter from Mr Cameron in which he jokingly advised them to consider “a fence-mending trip to Mexico”.
Last month, the BBC had to apologise after Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond made an insulting parody of Mexicans to describe a Mexican sports car.
Mr Clarkson and his co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond also tied banners to trains reading: “British IT is good for your company. Another banner said: “Eat English muffins”. The messages became obscene when the carriages parted, ripping the signs.
More than half the planned savings from Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s legal aid cuts will be wiped out by “knock-on” costs for taxpayers elsewhere, a report warns today.
A study from King’s College London, commissioned by the Law Society, says the NHS, courts and other state organisations will all be hit by extra demands once legal aid reforms are brought in.
It says the extra costs will eat up £139 million of £239 million in savings estimated by ministers in three key areas of legal aid – family law, clinical negligence and social welfare. The Law Society calls the reforms “kamikaze“.
The government was warned on Thursday that it is running the risk of abusing parliament in its attempts to reverse a triple defeat in the House of Lords over plans to cut benefits for disabled people.
Labour, which accused the government of crossing the line of decency with its reforms, pledged to fight any coalition effort to use special parliamentary procedures to reverse the votes.
The row erupted after Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister, surprised peers late on Wednesday night by tabling a new amendment. Freud acted after peers rejected plans to means-test employment and support allowance (ESA) payments for disabled people – plus cancer patients and stroke survivors – after only a year. Peers also rejected plans to time-limit ESA for cancer patients and to restrict access to ESA for disabled or ill young people.
But the minister’s amendment partially reversed the vote on young people.
Lady Hollis of Heigham, Labour’s former welfare minister, criticised the Freud amendment – tabled after most peers had left parliament for the evening in the belief that there were no further substantive votes.
Hollis told peers: “I am sure Lord Freud doesn’t wish to appear to be subverting the view of the entire house, which was expressed in the full knowledge that the amendment which we voted on was devised as a paving amendment to a substantive one so that we could debate it in good time.”