BMA renews call for Health Act repeal as reforms complete first year

BMA has renewed calls for the health and social care act to be repealed a year after one of the biggest reform programmes in the history of the NHS came into force.

BMA: campaign questions Health Act reforms
BMA: campaign questions Health Act reforms

The doctors’ union launched a campaign calling into question whether the coalition government’s reforms were working.

At a cost of billions of pounds, said BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter, the reforms had increased bureaucracy, and ‘needlessly shook up the fabric of the NHS’ with very little gain.

BMA, which opposed the act as it passed through parliament in 2012, said it wanted to highlight key areas of concern with the reforms, including the use of competitive tendering, creating unnecessary work for commissioners, thedual  role of Monitor driving integration and competition, and the role of the Office of Fair Trading making decisions about health organisation mergers. 

‘The test for any government health policy should be whether it benefits patients, and while no one wants to see another wholesale reorganisation of the NHS, doctors remain concerned that key aspects of the act and how they are being implemented could threaten patient safety,' said Dr Porter. ‘Nothing more so than the emphasis on competition over integration and its failure to improve patient care, a concern echoed by Sir David Nicholson, the outgoing head of NHS England, and the millions already wasted on lawyers as commissioners struggle with the changes.’

‘The Office of Fair Trading, whose expertise lies in ensuring consumer choice in private markets, has no place in the NHS. It is in the best interests of patients if decisions on how services are delivered are clinically led, yet the OFT was still able to overturn the proposed merger between hospitals in Bournemouth and Poole despite support from the local community, commissioners and most importantly, clinicians. 

‘All of this comes as the NHS continues to be used as a political football despite the government’s assurances that they want to ‘free NHS staff from political micromanagement’. We have seen doctors openly criticised by ministers, attempts to force through change such as in Lewisham made for political expediency, and even claims that there are attempts to manipulate NHS England for political purposes.

‘The damage done to the NHS has been profound and intense. Consequently the BMA has taken the concerns expressed by doctors amongst others and calls for the repeal of this act. What we need now and is an honest and frank debate over how we can put right what has gone wrong without further top-down reorganisation.’

BMA launched its campaign yesterday with a parliamentary seminar with former health secretaries Andy Burnham, Stephen Dorrell and Frank Dobson, and former health minister Paul Burstow.

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