Public want doctors not politicians to control the NHS

Two thirds of the public want doctors to have a greater say in how the NHS is run, according to a BMA poll.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter: doctors should run the NHS (Photo: BMA)
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter: doctors should run the NHS (Photo: BMA)

A poll for the BMA published on the first day of the doctors’ union’s annual representative meeting in Harrogate, found the public think the NHS should manage itself without political involvement.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said patient care was taking a back seat to political point scoring as governments imposed targets and box-ticking to grab headlines.

‘With every government comes a new reform of the health service, sometimes more than one and each time the expertise, knowledge and passion of those working in the NHS is ignored and chipped away,' he said.

The poll by Ipsos MORI found:

  • Almost three quarters (73 per cent) believe that political parties are designing health policy to win votes, not to do what is best for the NHS
  • Two in three (66 per cent) of the public are in favour of doctors having a greater say in how the NHS is run
  • Two in three (65 per cent) believe the NHS should manage itself, without the involvement of politicians, as it understands how best to provide healthcare
  • Almost half (46 per cent) thought that politicians should have low or no involvement in how the NHS is run
  • Only one in three (33 per cent) agree that Parliament should set overall targets for the NHS

The BMA is calling on all political parties to put patient care ahead of winning votes as the general election approaches.

Dr Porter attacked ‘politically motivated’ proposals such as Labour's plans for a 48-hour GP appointment guarantee, or plans for seven-day services which, he said ‘might look good on a leaflet but they don’t address the challenges that have left GPs struggling to deliver the care, time and appointments their patients need’.

He added: ‘Doctors want to see politics taken out of the NHS once and for all. It is clear that the public feel the same way. Yes, politicians should be accountable for the running of the NHS, but when it comes to decisions on patient care it is time to allow doctors to do what they do best - lead the delivery of high quality patient care.’

The results of the poll were similar across the UK, despite the different approaches to health policy by the devolved governments.

BMA Scotland chairman Dr Brian Keighley said: ‘In Scotland, we have not endured the massive reorganisation of the NHS that has happened in England, but political agendas here have stifled change and, in my view, placed the NHS, as it is currently run, in an unsustainable position.

‘This survey shows that the public is increasingly disenchanted with the use of the NHS as a political football by all political parties in Scotland.’

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