Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Is the BMA missing the point?

The British Medical Association aimed to deliver another blow to the government’s NHS reform plans yesterday by voting against key elements of the reforms at a special representatives meeting. The body, which represents over 140,000 doctors, passed a motion to ‘halt the proposed top down reorganisation of the NHS’. A motion supporting clinician led commissioning was passed.

At one point during the debate the chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum defended the BMA leadership describing the government claims that the organisation supported reforms as ‘mischievous’ saying ‘it’s a funny kind of support that produces highly critical responses to the white paper consultations, setting out 77 pages of detailed concerns and risks’

And there is the rub; although the BMA is a respected and influential organisation, when it comes to the Health and Social Care Bill, it is possibly a toothless tiger. Andrew Lansley, the UK secretary of state for health, has already ignored the ‘77 pages of detailed concerns and risks’ so why would he change his mind now?

Another speaker mentioned that there was ‘a smell of revolt in the air’. But who is revolting? (My legal advisers tell me I can’t answer that one). As Lansley is quick to point out – 177 GP consortia have already been formed - £ signs lighting up before their very eyes. It may have been helpful if the BMA had asked if GPs are managing £80 billion budgets – when are they going to find time to consult with patients? Hospital doctors are also going to need an enormous amount of support as they are in danger of becoming marginalised.

As Alistair McLellan, Editor of the Health Services Journal tweeted yesterday – ‘the limits of the BMA may become clear’ as a result of this debate. It’s laudable that the first special representatives meeting was called to discuss this bill but as to the efficacy of the meeting’s outcome - time will tell.

Those who still believe that the NHS restructure is deeply flawed can at best hope that as each public and professional body stands up to be counted with their views on these reforms, the government will take on board the comments and take action to reduce the risk of the planned changes.

In the meantime, I must confess that I am beginning to suffer from reform fatigue. This morning I turned on my car radio to hear Andrew Lansley, yet again, defending his plans with endless soundbites. At least I can find solace in football, and after another successful outing to watch Manchester United last night, may revert to posting another blog about the beautiful, or maybe not so beautiful game soon…


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