Intended for healthcare professionals

News BMA annual representative meeting, Belfast, 26 June to 29 June

Doctors blame untested policies for financial crisis in the NHS

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 29 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:9

The BMA's flight from reality

Is the BMA positioning itself like an old-fashioned trade union: out
to protect its members from any sort of change regardless of the impact on
the public? This is often the implication of the rhetoric at the BMA
annual meeting.

Here are some examples of where the rhetoric is disconnected from

One speaker moans about the huge sums spent on IT. Another that
nurses have to spend more time scurrying around to find free beds instead
of caring for patients. Neither sees the irony of the fact that the way to
avoid the latter problem is to spend more on the former. Computers are
good at keeping track of patients and free beds, but the BMA would prefer
the money spent on "front-line" staff. The result being that hospitals are
like a hotel where, to find a free room, you have to knock on every door
and check for guests. In fact the NHS spends a great deal less on
computers than almost any other organisation and wastes a great deal of
staff time and energy as a result. But actually fixing problems is not
what the rhetoric is about is it?

Another speaker complains that the internal market makes it
impossible for trusts to control their costs. This one I just don't get.
The market doesn't affect trusts' costs: they are an internal problem for
trusts and they have the same control over them as they have always had.
The market affects their income and patient flow. The impact of that is
that trusts can no longer compensate for poor control of costs and
inefficiency by doing cushy deals with commissioners or being bailed out
by SHAs. That means that trusts might actually have to get a grip on their
costs. A true union can't tolerate this sort of interference with its
members rights. We can't go around admitting that some doctors and some
hospitals are more efficient that others, can we?

Competing interests:
Managment consultant working in health

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 July 2006
stephen black
management consultant
london sw1w 9sr