Top GP warns of threat to NHS as BMA calls emergency conference

England risks losing its comprehensive NHS within just a few years, a senior GP has warned, after the BMA called an emergency conference on the crisis facing the health service.

Dr Louise Irvine: 'Across the board in healthcare there are major problems'
Dr Louise Irvine: 'Across the board in healthcare there are major problems'

BMA council members have voted to hold a special representative meeting - a conference for doctors across all disciplines represented in the union - on 3 May.

The emergency conference to highlight the growing crisis in the NHS will come just months after GPs held an emergency conference on the deteriorating state of general practice, and amid the ongoing junior doctor dispute.

Thousands of doctors joined the first in three 48-hour walkouts earlier this month.

NHS crisis

Lewisham GP and BMA council member Dr Louise Irvine told GPonline that doctors had a responsibility to warn the public about the threat to the health service.

She said the crisis conference would not follow the usual format of BMA annual representative meetings, with a series of motions for debate, but instead would feature expert speakers and longer debate.

'Across the board in healthcare there are major problems,' said Dr Irvine. 'This is a way to highlight to the public the dire crisis in the NHS in relation to a wide range of issues - the funding crisis, creeping privatisation, the impact of austerity on people’s health, the crisis in mental healthcare, general practice on its knees - good practices are closing down in parts of the country, and they can’t recruit or survive.

'We want to use the conference as a way to explore these issues and look for solutions.'

NHS funding

Very little time remains to save the health service, Dr Irvine warned. 'I think we risk losing our NHS as a universal, free-at-the-point-of-use, top quality service. It might become a second rate service of last resort and more and more people may feel they need to take out insurance.

'The risk is we will see the erosion of a good comprehensive NHS over the next few years if this carries on. I don’t want to pre empt what comes out of the conference, but my personal view is that we have to come out with a demand for proper funding, and highlight the chaos and shambles that the market is causing. It is sapping energy and resources at a time when we are overstretched.'

Dr Irvine warned that a £220m GP investment under the 2016/17 contract was 'peanuts' compared to the amount stripped from the profession over the previous decade.

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