NHS Is On Brink Of Collapse, Say Consultants

The NHS is on the brink of collapse and cannot be saved unless Gordon Brown intervenes when he becomes prime minister to give doctors the authority to organise a recovery, the leader of Britain’s 33,000 hospital consultants will claim today.

{mosimage}Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee, will tell Mr Brown: “Political meddling has brought the NHS to its knees. Unshackle the profession, give us back the health service, and we will rebuild it.

Fail to do so and you will rightly be condemned for destroying the best piece of social capital the country has ever had.”

Dr Fielden will make his plea as Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, announces the NHS’s financial results for the year to March. She is expected to confirm a report in the Guardian last week that it made a surplus of about £500m.

Dr Fielden will blame the Department of Health for cutting services too aggressively last autumn, when ministers panicked about the possibility of another deficit. “It takes weeks to cut, but years to rebuild trust,” he will tell the BMA consultants’ conference in London. “We are angry with the government for a woeful dereliction of duty – towards patients, towards the profession and towards the future. We have lost all confidence that the government can solve the problems it has created.”

The service suffered from too little strategic direction and too many ministerial policy initiatives. It had become “a distorted skeleton”. The government diverted billions of pounds from improving efficiency to create an internal market in which hospitals competed for patients. “The excessive use of private firms to provide NHS services has been costly, disruptive and has fragmented care. The independent sector should only be used where the NHS needs it, not thrust into its midst like a carelessly placed hand grenade.”

Mr Brown should work with doctors, patients and other healthcare professionals to stem the loss of trust and collapse in morale. “We will not stand by and see the Trojan horse of the independent sector rolled in to take over the health service from within.”