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BMA calls for ban on private firms

By Ashleigh Goff

The BMA in Scotland has called on Parliament to accept the Scottish Government's proposal to ban private companies from providing primary care.

The Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Bill includes proposals to remove the ability for commercial companies from holding primary medical services contracts.

The BMA says this clause has allowed the rapid expansion of commercially provided GP services in England, where the Department of Health continues to encourage private sector involvement.

It follows the national launch of the BMA's ‘Look After Our NHS' campaign earlier this week, which is asking doctors to gather examples of the negative impact and cost of market-led NHS reforms.

Dr Dean Marshall, a GP in Midlothian and chair of the Scottish GPC, said: ‘Commercial providers of primary care services usually have a responsibility to their shareholders to make a profit whereas the NHS GP has the care of patients at the heart of their decision making.'

‘Accountability to a commercial employer and short term contracts are an uncertain basis for the long term relationship between professionals and patients upon which effective primary care depends,' and this concept of providing care from ‘the cradle to the grave' is most valued by the public.

The proposal is the latest divergence in health policy between the devolved nations and England.

GP leaders say experiences in England show why private firms should be kept from running GP services.

Dr Beth McCarron Nash, GPC negotiator and a GP in Cornwall said: ‘GPs in England have seen the negative impact of the commercialisation agenda, with the imposition of privately run polyclinics. We don't want to see Scotland go the same way.'

The Scottish Parliament Health Committee are currently in the process of gathering evidence on the Bill, which is expected to be passed later in the year. The deadline for completion of Stage 1 is 25 September 2009.

Dr Dean Marshall

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