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BMA warning over NHS Constitution waiting time guarantee

The BMA has warned that Government plans to restrict waiting times for certain patients could only serve to bring longer waits for other patients with more serious conditions.

Their comments came as the Department of Health launched a public consultation on plans for an NHS Constitution, which would give patients legal rights regarding maximum waiting times for elective procedures and urgent cancer referrals from GPs.

Patients would receive guarantees of treatment by a consultant within 18 weeks, or by a cancer specialist within two weeks of a GP referral as part of the NHS Constitution.

If the NHS is unable to meet this commitment it will have to take ‘all reasonable steps' to find a range of alternatives, including private providers at NHS prices.

Dr Mark Potter, chair of the BMA's consultants committee, said: ‘If one group of patients gains a legal right by virtue of how long they have waited there is a risk that others with more serious conditions will wait longer. We also have concerns that this will mean more NHS work going to private providers, with destabilising effects of hard-pressed NHS services.'

Under the constitution, those aged 40-74 would have the right to an NHS health check every five years to assess their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney diseases. Patients will be able hold their own personal health budgets and to choose a GP practice offering extended access to weekend and evening appointments.

Dr Potter is concerned about personal health budgets and questioned whether patients would have to return money to the NHS pot if they underpsend.

The BMA fears the plan could mean even longer waiting times for other patients The BMA fears the plan could mean even longer waiting times for other patients

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