Sunday, 20 March 2011

Health Unions Oppose Cuts and Reforms

The BMA is opposing key parts of the governments health reforms

By Ben Aulakh

The two biggest trade unions representing doctors and nurses in England have voiced their opposition to NHS reforms, and continuing cuts in health spending.

The British Medical Association is opposing what it sees as the gradual privatisation of the National Health Service, through the introduction of providers competing with each other to supply services.

BMA Council Chairman Hamish Meldrum has said that the introduction of new regulator Monitor, whose job remit will include pursuing competition, could mean the NHS will be run along the same lines as the privatised, gas, water, and telecommunications industries.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of The Royal College of Nursing is also calling on Chancellor George Osborne to “stop any further cuts from happening.”

Mr Meldrum has said that ‘privatisation is not the right model for the NHS.’

He said, “Whatever your views of the privatisation of other services, it is certainly not the right model for the NHS.

“At best providers of care will be distracted from their main responsibility of providing excellent services, for fear of being open to frequent and costly legal challenges for anti-competitive practices.”

“At worst, hospitals will close – not necessarily for appropriate reasons – and large groups of patients will have greater difficulty in accessing the care they need.”

The BMA is also worried that patient care may suffer if existing local healthcare partnerships, that have worked well in the past, are deemed anti-competitive by Monitor.

The RCN is circulating a petition protesting against an earmarked 27, 000 job losses across the health service.

In the petition’s communiqué Dr Carter states, “The RCN welcomed the government’s pledge to protect the NHS budget and increase it in real terms over the life of this Parliament.

 “However we have validated evidence that in reality, cuts are being made to both services and staff.”

“We ask that you and the Secretary of State for Health recognise that cuts to the frontline are taking place and to assure us that this will not be allowed to continue.”

The college is calling on the government to use its health budget speech to ‘send out a clear message that cuts to services and jobs in the NHS will stop.’

The proposed reforms of how local health budgets are managed will see control taken away from Primary Care Trusts, and put into the hands of GP surgeries.

They will then compete with each other and hospitals to provide a whole range of health services to populations of a given area.

The BMA is calling on the government to remove the job of promoting competition from Monitor’s remit, to ensure that co-operation, not competition, governs patient care.

The role of the regulator should not be to enforce potentially damaging competition but to ensure comprehensive, high quality care and to protect patients.”


Photograph from www.pulsetoday.co.uk

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