Doctors Call For An Independently Run NHS

Doctors’ leaders launched a fierce attack on Labour’s handling of the NHS yesterday and said an independent board of governors should take over its day-to-day running.

Unveiling a blueprint for the future of the health service, the British Medical Association also described health care rationing as inevitable, and said a core list of taxpayer-funded treatments should be drawn up to end the postcode lotteries faced by many patients.

The BMA said ministers should be prevented from “constant political dabbling” in the day-to-day running of the health service following a decade of “incoherent and contradictory” reforms.

It outlined proposals for a written constitution setting out the rights of the public and the responsibilities of the Government.

The Department of Health should focus more on public health issues such as diet, obesity and smoking, it added.

James Johnson, BMA chairman, said the report had been drawn up following widespread alarm expressed by doctors at the “incoherence” of Government policies and the resulting “reorganisation fatigue”.

Mr Johnson said: “We do not think the health service benefits from constant political dabbling and micro-management. What every new Secretary of State seems to do, contrary to the advice of civil servants, is to embark on another reorganisation of the service.

“When it comes to the day-to-day running of the NHS, the role of national politics should be significantly reduced.”

He added that current reforms were “about as unpopular as you can get with the whole of the workforce and, more to the point, lack coherence and are internally contradictory”.

The BMA published a set of 24 recommendations yesterday in a report entitled A Rational Way Forward for the NHS in England.

Faced with growing financial pressures from Government targets and pay rises, primary care trusts (PCTs) have been forced to make increasingly difficult decisions about which treatments they can afford.

This has led to anger from patients who are unable to get treatments for conditions that are funded by PCTs in neighbouring areas.

A growing number of experts has said that in practice health care rationing already exists, and have called for more honesty from politicians on the subject. Expensive treatments, such as the new generation of targeted cancer drugs, and the ageing population will only increase the pressures.

The BMA called for an open, honest public debate to determine which drugs and therapies should be paid for from the public purse. Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “We are saying that if rationing is to take place it should be done in a coherent, open and transparent manner, involving politicians, professionals and the public.”

Andy Burnham, health minister, said: “We resist any call to make the NHS a slimmed-down, emergency service, because that’s what it would become if we started rationing care.

“The only losers would be the poorest people.”