Government 'consciously' creating NHS crisis to force privatisation, BMA leaders warn

BMA leaders have said the government is deliberately creating the crisis in the health service to push through privatisation.

BMA chair-elect Dr Chaand Nagpaul
BMA chair-elect Dr Chaand Nagpaul

At their annual representative meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth BMA members agreed that the crisis in NHS hospitals had been ‘consciously created’ by the government ‘in order to accelerate its transformation plans for private sector takeover’.

Proposing the motion, GPC chair and BMA chair-elect Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that continued government-imposed austerity was a threat to quality and safety in the NHS.

‘The government speaks of new investment but in the same breath asks us to make £3 of efficiency savings for every £1 spent.

NHS crisis

'NHS costs are rising at 4% per annum but with only a 2% annual uplift to the NHS budget in coming years something has to give and the reality is clear to doctors, patients, the public and indeed everyone except government.’

Dr Nagpaul quoted a warning from the government’s former safety expert Don Berwick that ‘austerity has gone too far and that it’s not possible to run the NHS on current funding’.

The chair-elect warned: ‘The general election was a wake-up call, rejecting the political pretence of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint. In the name of safety and quality, austerity and savage cuts have to stop. We are a rich nation, we are a civilised society, the public deserve a safe, civilised health service. We cannot and must not accept anything less.’

There was opposition in the debate to the idea the crisis had been created ‘consciously’ from some speakers, however. GP Dr Grant Ingrams asked the meeting: ‘Do you really believe this and preceding governments would be capable of such clear thinking?’

The government just ‘does not know what to do with the NHS’, he added. Dr Ingram said the crisis ‘has not been consciously created'. He added: 'The current parlous state of the NHS has not been due to political conspiracy, but is due to political cock-ups.’

Cock-up or conspiracy

Outgoing BMA chair Dr Mark Porter also suggested the crisis may be caused more by ‘incompetence’. While there was evidence of more privatisation in the service, he said  ‘there isn’t the same evidence that this is a deliberate conspiracy’.

Dr Nagpaul replied that legislation enacted such as that to force commissioners to tender services, and to force GPs to refer patients to -private treatment centres, proved there was a ‘deliberate’ plan by governments. ‘This is deliberate and it does need to be challenged,' he said.

The following motion was passed in full by the conference:

That this meeting deplores the current blame culture in the NHS and:

i) believes that the woeful government underfunding of the NHS coupled with continued austerity cuts is the greatest threat to quality and safety in the NHS;

ii) believes that the crisis in NHS hospitals has been consciously created by the government, in order to accelerate its transformation plans for private sector takeover of healthcare in England;

iii) firmly believes this scapegoating is a deliberate attempt to distract the public from an under-funded service under severe and intense strain.

A DH spokeswoman said: 'This motion sadly has no relationship with reality – while of course there are pressures on the frontline, the government is now spending more than any in history on the NHS, has left doctors themselves to decide on use of the private sector, and public satisfaction is now the highest it has been in all but three of the last 20 years.'

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