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BMA launches major public campaign against private sector

By Nigel Praities

The BMA has launched a major fight-back against the expansion of private sector provision in the NHS.

The ‘Look After Our NHS' campaign – launched today - will send campaign packs to all 100,000 BMA members containing posters and leaflets urging patients to show their support for a publicly-funded NHS.

The posters picture businessmen taking money out of the NHS, and call on the public to ‘help us put patients before profits.'

The campaign publicises the fact that many private providers working for the NHS have received millions in guaranteed payments for contracts, despite treating fewer patients than planned. It also quotes data from a Pulse investigation that showed GP-led health centres have received on average three times the funding per patient of regular GP practices.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said the campaign would highlight the need for the NHS to put patients first, and not profits.

‘NHS staff see on a daily basis the waste of taxpayers' money caused by this fixation with market ideology. Particularly as the public purse strings tighten, it is crucial that public money is no longer wasted on expensive commercial experiments.'

‘Doctors have already backed the campaign. Now members of the public can show politicians the extent of opposition to commercialisation of their NHS,' he said.

Dr Hamish Meldrum What the campaign packs will say

1) The creation of a market in the NHS has meant an increase in bureaucracy; the number of senior managers in the NHS rose by 91% between 1995 and 2008 - more than double the increase in numbers of doctors and nurses

2) Many private NHS providers have received millions in guaranteed payments for contracts, despite treating fewer patients than planned; on average, the first wave of Independent Sector Treatment Centres delivered just 85% of activity paid for - suggesting a shortfall of £220 million on the £1.47 billion contracts

3) New ‘GP-led health centres' have been costly, enjoying on average three times the funding per patient of regular GP practices, despite in some cases very few patients registering with them

4) Every eight cases diverted to an Independent Sector treatment centre costs the taxpayer the equivalent of almost ten cases dealt with by the NHS

5) The Private Finance Initiative is now funding over 100 new hospital schemes, valued at £10.9 billion, but set to cost the taxpayer £62.6 billion by the time the final payments are made in 2048

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