Doctors under attack says British Medical Association

A call to Gordon Brown to make a new start with doctors, came today in the opening speech at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference.

Doctos under attack says BMA
Doctos under attack says BMA

Dr Sam Everington, Acting BMA Chairman, urged the new Prime Minister to avoid future agonies for the NHS - a health service in which doctors felt under attack.

Speaking to the conference of 500 UK doctors meeting in Torquay, he predicted difficult times ahead and said:

'Doctors feel under attack, the government wants to turn everything into something that has just a monetary value. Vocation, dedication and lifetime commitment to patients and the NHS has little value in this new world - we are just financial commodities.'

Last month the BMA published its green paper on the future of the NHS. Dr Everington said it challenged the government's vision and started the debate about a new NHS.

In his message to Gordon Brown he said: 'Your Government has lost support from many of the 1.3 million people who work for your NHS. Listen to us not because we are doctors but because we have given a lifetime of service to patients in the NHS - we are their champions.'

Junior doctor training crisis
On the fiasco of the new appointment process for junior doctors, Dr Everington said the blame for this lay clearly with government and the designers of the system who didn't listen to the BMA warnings. He called upon Gordon Brown to: 'End the misery of the junior doctors and give them back their futures in the NHS.'

'Thousands of juniors still have no idea whether they can continue their professional training after 1st August 2007. We hear every day about highly talented junior doctors who may seek their futures abroad now that their careers appear blighted by this crisis. Many valuable junior doctors are considering leaving medicine altogether. What a scandal. What an absolute waste of talent and what a loss to the Health Service and to the future care of our patients.'

The government must 'avoid future agonies for the health service by engaging with the doctors in it, listening to what they have to say on behalf of their patients, and valuing the work they do. Let's make a new start together.'

SAS doctors
The UK has 12,500 Staff and Associate Specialist (SAS) grade doctors. A new contract has been negotiated for them but not yet cleared through the government process so that they can vote on it.

'I have a further message for the new Prime Minister: Mr Brown - release the Staff and Associate Specialist contract from the Treasury stranglehold so that these under-valued doctors can vote on its acceptability.'

Dr Everington said: 'For over seven months the government has sat doing nothing with a potential new contract which could go out to ballot. He called for 'No more excuses, no more delays. Do what is right.'

Teaching and research
Dr Everington said: 'Academic medicine has suffered a catastrophic decline in the last 5 years - a quarter of the workforce has been lost despite the substantial increase in medical student numbers... The loss of academics - women and men - has serious consequences for teaching and research in the NHS and therefore for the delivery of services to patients. It also fundamentally jeopardises the government aim to be a world leader in science and teaching.'

NHS it system
He said: 'What a sorry state the NHS IT system is in. Estimated costs of upward of £20 billion, interminable delays, the chaotic shambles that is Choose and Book, growing concerns about patient confidentiality and security - it's a wonderful exercise in how not to do things.'

Smoking bans were, Dr Everington said, the single biggest factor in improving public health in our lifetimes. 'We must campaign vigorously for a ban on vending machine sales of cigarettes and ask for packets of 10 to be scrapped. This will cut smoking in children.'

The future
He concluded: 'The NHS is a fantastic idea, enormous sums of money have been put into it yet it faces one of the most serious crises in years with doctors and managers wondering whether it can survive with its present ethos beyond 2008... Everything we want to achieve in the next year will depend on us working and fighting together for a better future for our doctors and patients.'

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