Date Published: 29 June 2009

BMA leader urges Government to stop “playing around

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

BMA Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, today (29/6/09) called on the government to stop playing around with the NHS and to admit when policies have not worked.

In his keynote address to the BMA's annual representative meeting (ARM) Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA said:

?Don't play around with our health service. It's not a toy you cast aside and replace with the latest product off the shelf when you've tired of it. It needs looking after. It's our NHS, make it yours too.?

Dr Meldrum urged the new Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, to cut out waste and unnecessary expense in the NHS. He said there had never been a better time to abandon the market reforms in England, calling on Mr Burnham to ?end this ludicrous, divisive and expensive experiment of the market in healthcare in England.”He urged doctors to sign up to the BMA's ?Look After Our NHS”campaign which is gathering examples of how the market is impacting on the NHS.

He challenged the Government to face up to where policies had failed and not to fear losing face. He said:

?Don't cling to failed policies just because you think you might lose face if you are seen to have changed your mind. It's a sign of strength not weakness to admit that new circumstances need new policies.?

Dr Meldrum told the audience of around 500 doctors that pressures on NHS funding would intensify in the months ahead. He said:

?The NHS is facing some of the biggest and most serious challenges ever, as we move from a period of sustained growth in resources to one of, at best, stagnation in funding, and at worst, stringency, hardship and even cuts, in our health service.

We need to do everything possible to protect the healthcare budget and not concede that swingeing cuts are either inevitable or necessary.

He warned those calling for a move to an insurance-based system of funding that this was not the answer: ?There is little evidence that such systems reduce demand; they are certainly more expensive to operate and it cannot be argued that they are fairer than raising money from general taxation.?

Remarking on a recent visit to Australia, where there is a mix of state provision and private insurance, he said:

?I passed several people begging in the prosperous streets of Melbourne and Sydney with placards stating that they could not afford their medical bills. I never want to see that on the streets of the UK.?

In a message to all political parties he urged:

?Be honest with the public and the profession. Stop trying to outbid each other about who's going to spend more or cut less. It's not a very edifying spectacle and the public and the profession have seen through the charade that seems to happen every time an election is looming.?

He added:

?The profession is ready to work with whichever governments are in power, to look at the hard choices, to make the tough decisions but on the basis of evidence, fairness, equity and trust, not just as apologists for another round of failed policies."

A whole-systems approach is needed to improve health care and protect services. Dr Meldrum said:

?We need a whole-system and across-government approach to improve the health of the public, with every citizen involved from the prime minister, downwards. Only that way will we slow the inexorable rise in pressure on our National Illness Service and cope with the financial and clinical challenges that lie ahead."

Dr Meldrum also criticised the pressures NHS staff can face when they try to speak out about poor practice. Referring to the recent case of nurse Margaret Haywood who was disciplined for her actions, he said:

?Such cases send out completely the wrong message to those health professionals who might want to speak out about unacceptable conditions in their workplace.

They also say a lot about the target-driven culture that has infested the NHS in recent years and that seems to put financial outcomes for trusts above clinical outcomes for patients.

We will not tolerate a substandard service for our patients and we will not tolerate a culture of muzzling or bullying of our staff.?


Source: British Medical Association.

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