Call to bar private providers from NHS

BMA ARM 2006 Delegates reject euthanasia, DoH policy on provision and defend GPs against critics.

An effective end to all existing and future involvement of the private sector in the NHS has been voted for by the BMA.

Delegates at its Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) in Belfast last week voted to oppose 'the incoherence of current government policies and the damage they have caused to the NHS'.

It passed a motion on private providers reading: 'There should be no further involvement of the commercial private sector in providing NHS care.

'The BMA will campaign to restore an integrated publicly provided health service in England.'

It further resolved to outline a 'BMA-led alternative vision' to government plans for the NHS and 'highlight, through a public information campaign, the deficiencies of the current reforms'.

Delegates spoke out against private provision throughout the conference, and the final motion will inform BMA policy at a summit meeting with government planned for next week.

GPC member Dr George Rae told the conference that private companies 'have the capacity to radically alter general practice in the UK. We need to say that enough is enough.'

Other speakers berated the government for the 'Wal-Mart effect' of private companies and warned that the NHS was in danger of becoming just a 'kitemark' organisation for other providers.

However, the meeting was far from unanimous on the issue.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said he was 'in no doubt of the government's intention to privatise the NHS as quickly as possible', but said active opposition was wrong.

'Will the government listen to the BMA?' he said. 'Do me a favour; it doesn't give a monkey's. If we want to achieve a government that changes its mind we will have to work with it.'

David Wrede, a consultant gynaecologist from Taunton in Somerset and a representative for Doctors for Reform, said that he had no private practice himself but that 'competition is real life'.

The meeting also mandated its leaders to propose a raft of other points at next week's summit.

A far-ranging policy statement says commissioning should 'be performed directly by the public sector' and its development made 'a higher priority for reform than patient choice'. It also called for the BMA to take greater part in reforms, saying that 'doctors are not being effectively utilised'.

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