Threatened ‘Attack’ On NHS Reform

Doctors are threatening an all-out attack on the government’s NHS reform programme, labelling it “not fit for purpose” and damaging to patients. Hundreds of medics will debate the critical motion at the start of the British Medical Association’s four-day annual conference in Torquay.

It comes after a poll of the public found four in 10 did not think the NHS had improved under Labour. Doctors will also raise concerns about public health issues such as obesity. A motion has been put forward calling for obesity in the under-12s to be considered parental neglect.

Concern will also be raised about the rising number of alcohol-related deaths, with a proposal for the legal age for buying alcohol in shops to be raised to 21, although pubs could still serve those aged 18 and over. Doctors will also debate whether to ban the drinking of alcohol in streets.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said: “There are some very serious concerns among the profession.” Abortion laws will also come under the microscope with a proposal put forward to allow terminations in the first trimester on an “informed consent” basis, scrapping the rule that requires two doctors to agree on the procedure.

But today is likely to be dominated by an attack on government reforms. The BMA has released a poll of 1,000 members of the public, showing that 42% felt the NHS had not got better in the last 10 years. One of the first motions says the government has showed a “contemptuous disregard” for the views of doctors. This has resulted in reforms which are “not fit for purpose” and damaging care.

Other motions set to be debated criticise the government’s use of the private sector and closure of A&E units to save money. They will also call on the NHS to be removed from direct political control by the setting up of an independent board to run the health service. Doctors will also call on the government to promote more research into the prevention and treatment of hospital bugs such as MRSA.

Dr Michael Wilks, who is chairing the four-day conference, said: “Our doctors will have very strong views about how reforms have affected the health service. I think we can expect lively debates.”