Doctors blame untested policies for financial crisis in the NHSBMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7557.9 (Published 29 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:9
Doctors blame untested government policies for NHS financial crisis
Doctors at the BMA’s annual meeting of representatives in Belfast have blamed the government for the financial crisis in the NHS, saying that it has taken a record amount of money away from care of patients and "squandered" it on unproved reforms.
"This financial crisis has nothing to do with diversionary talk of increases in doctors’ pay or profligate spending by NHS trusts. It’s a result of [the] government’s own making—with relentless ideological reforms that have misappropriated billions away from patient care," said a Middlesex GP and member of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, Chaand Nagpaul.
"[It is] lamentable that this once in a lifetime investment opportunity is being squandered in front of our eyes, leaving the NHS with cuts in services and staff and unable to afford cancer treatments available in other countries," he added.
Dr Nagpaul was speaking at an open debate on values and funding in the NHS. He said that an estimated £1.5bn (€2.2bn; $2.7bn) had been spent on "perpetual reorganisation" within the NHS, £1bn had been paid to private management consultants, such as those called in to help debt ridden NHS trusts, and £14bn had been overspent on the NHS information technology programme.
"The government cannot act with impunity. It must be held to account for its ideological, non-evidence based policies being the single greatest cause in bringing the NHS into financial standstill," he said.
Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist at the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust in north London, told the conference that last year the government had spent £33bn on centrally funded initiatives "that do not impact on patient care," such as the Modernisation Agency and NHS University.
Other representatives attacked the private finance initiative for new hospitals and the introduction of practice based commissioning. Geoffrey Lewis, a consultant anaesthetist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said that the government was promoting practice based commissioning as good housekeeping, whereas in reality its aim was to reduce the number of people admitted to hospital. "Patricia Hewitt [the health secretary], we do not want these unpiloted and unnecessary schemes," he said.
Mark Porter, a consultant anaesthetist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said that creating an internal market within the NHS had left trusts unable to control their costs. "This had led to the bad headlines and destroyed the goodwill between doctors and hospitals," he added.
Tiz North, a consultant radiologist at Epsom and St Helier University Hospital NHS Trust in Surrey, called on the conference to push the government to guarantee that the remainder of the money for the NHS be earmarked for frontline services. The Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Evan Harris, called for a motion to "return this government to common sense."
The conference had not yet tabled the motions from the debate when the BMJ went to press, but the results will be available on bmj.com on Friday 30 June.
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