Doctors call for national crisis meeting about health White Paper

Hornchurch GP says we are heading towards a US-style privatised health system

DOCTORS from across London in rebellion against the Government’s health White Paper are calling for a national meeting of medics to discuss it.

Members of the London Regional Council of the British Medical Association (BMA), including Hornchurch GP, Dr Timothy Bland, overwhelmingly voted for the move at a meeting of 80 doctors at its head office in Tavistock Square yesterday (November 4).

Dr Bland, the only doctor who attended from Havering, said doctors at the meeting were “extremely worried” about the White Paper.

He said three main concerns raised were:

• The proposals represent the “first step towards irreversible privatisation of the NHS” and lead to a “US-style health service” where treatment quality would vary across the country.

• Most people including MPs are unaware of what the paper contains. Doctors are amazed at the lack of national debate on the subject.

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• All hospitals will be forced to become profit making Foundation Hospitals and to award contracts to the cheapest bidder. This would lead hospitals to prioritise easy well-paid work leading to patients’ suffering in poorer areas.

A BMA spokeswoman said the BMA did not hold the view that the White Paper would lead to privatisation but said its members were concerned.

In particular, the organisation has noted doctors feel strongly about debating the proposals and is “is doing everything it can to inform its members”.

The BMA is devoting its first ever webinar, on Tuesday at 7pm, with the chairman of the BMA, Dr Hamish Meldrum.

It follows a Department of Health webchat with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley earlier that afternoon.

The BMA is also worried about the Health Secretary’s push for all hospitals to reach foundation status.

“We fear hospitals will have to focus all their efforts on this issue rather than focussing on patient care,” the spokesman said.

Dr Bland, who has already criticised the White Paper in the Recorder and on national television, said: “I feel that it’s encouraging that doctors from across the whole of London realise how dangerous this White Paper is for the country and how important it is that the public and MPs find out about it as quickly as possible.”

Only two doctors voted against the motion for a national meeting and the BMA Council will now consider the request.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Government is not privatising the NHS. The White Paper is true to the principles and values of the NHS - that care is free at the point of use and based on need, not ability to pay.

“We believe competition can greatly improve patient care. Private and voluntary sector providers have always made a vital contribution to delivering NHS services and we want this to continue. Our proposals include greater choice for patients over their care and treatment with any healthcare provider who can meet NHS quality and prices.”

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