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BMA chair Meldrum calls for scrapping of market driven NHS

By Ian Quinn

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has called on the Government to scrap the damaging market economy in England's healthcare.

In his keynote speech opening the association's annual conference in Edinburgh today, Dr Meldrum told more than 400 UK doctors that competition had caused fragmentation rather efficiency and had harmed patients and doctors alike.

He said: ‘We've had the market in England for nearly 20 years. Where's the evidence that it works?

‘Where's the balance sheet that shows that the argued-for and promised increase in efficiencies and decrease in costs outweigh the transaction costs and bureaucracy of the market? Show me the evidence that for most of what we do – emergency care, long-term conditions and primary care – the market improves rather than detracts.

‘Instead we get competition not collaboration; fragmentation not continuity; inefficiency not efficiency. Not good for doctors, not good for patients, not good for the NHS.'

Dr Meldrum said devolution, normally portrayed as the three Celtic nations breaking away from England, had worked in reverse when it came to the NHS.

He said: ‘In the case of the NHS it's been the other way round; England has broken away from the rest of the UK'

Dr Meldrum urged NHS chiefs to look to the Scottish model which operates without a competitive market among healthcare providers.

‘The BMA wants to see an NHS untarnished by a market economy, true to its beginnings, giving the public a fair, caring, equitable and cost-effective health service. Not a service run like a shoddy supermarket war. If it can be done here in Edinburgh, it can be done in England. ‘

Dr Meldrum added that the Government's commissioning plans, including practice based commissioning, were doomed to failure while they remained part of an overall market system intent on commercialisation of health services.

‘Politicians in England, including Lord Darzi, may talk about this, but nothing in their policies will deliver it whilst they remain obsessed with the market and with commercialisation of the NHS'

The CBI immediately attacked the BMA leaders stance.

James Fothergill, CBI head of health policy, said: 'The BMA is misguided in its attack on the strategic use of the private sector to deliver healthcare to the NHS. Evidence shows that in England, where reforms have been more radical, the NHS has delivered significantly better outcomes than in Scotland, where reforms have been held back.

'A recent report by the Healthcare Commission said that competition, or the possibility of it, to provide NHS care has led to improved services in many areas. So restricting use of the private sector to the ‘last resort' would not seem to be in the best interests of patients.'

Dr Hamish Meldrum: Market damaging doctors and patients Dr Hamish Meldrum: Market damaging doctors and patients

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