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BMA annual meeting: Private firms shouldn’t use NHS logo, argue doctors

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3438 (Published 20 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3438
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. Belfast

Doctors have said that the BMA should lobby the government to stop private companies that provide NHS services, such as Serco, Circle, and Virgin, from using the NHS logo when they deliver NHS care.

Delegates at the BMA’s annual representatives meeting in Belfast, on 20 June, voted by 63% against 37% to pass the motion, proposed by Jacky Davis from Islington in London. She told the meeting, “The public does not want to see the NHS privatised. Most people have no idea that they are being treated by the private sector.”

Davis continued, “The NHS logo is the tried and trusted brand, but if the private sector delivers poor care the NHS is liable to get the blame. Does the private sector sometimes deliver poor care? Yeah, how much time have you got? Failed hip prostheses, patients going blind after cataract surgery, Serco and out-of-hours services in Cornwall, and Serco and community services in Suffolk. The record of the private sector is not always a happy one. All these failures are reported as NHS failures.”

In the past three years £6bn (€7.6bn; $8.6bn) of contracts have gone to private companies, Davis said, and the sector was destroying the NHS brand.

She said that the Department of Health’s branding team encouraged private companies to use the NHS logo because it reassured the public that private sector services were part of the NHS family and that private companies shared the same values as the NHS.

“What rubbish,” said Davis. “How can they possibly share NHS values when our priorities are patients and their legal priorities are profits? Let [private companies] put up their own logo and let patients judge them for it.”

Speaking against the motion, George Rae, from the BMA’s North East regional council, said that in some situations GPs working in federations could be considered as private providers and argued that the motion’s wording needed to be changed. But Davis dismissed this, saying, “We know that GPs in the field are not the same as Serco or Virgin.”

Catherine Macadam, chair of the BMA’s patient liaison group, supported the motion. She argued that patients wanted transparency and needed to understand who was providing the care they were receiving and where their money was going.

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