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Full-blown market could bankrupt the NHS, Alliance chief warns.

By Gareth Iacobucci

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon has warned of the dangers of creating a full blown market which he said could bankrupt the NHS.

In his speech to the annual NHS Alliance conference in Manchester, he warned that reliance on the market would be too expensive in the current climate, with the NHS unable to afford so much excess capacity.

His comments came in response to Conservatives proposals to put GPs at the centre of a new practice-based commissioning marketplace.

Dr Dixon said: 'There is a danger that we may go for too much market and render the NHS bankrupt. A free market requires excess capacity. That is expensive. Also, a full blown NHS market turns the patient, who was simply a tin of beans in the old system, into a pot of gold in the new. A pot of gold everyone wants a part of.'

In a keynote speech to delegates, Dr Dixon highlighted the benefits of ‘cooperative commissioning, and said that, with the general election looming, the NHS is going through a phase of ‘policy impermanence', with ministers and director generals of commissioning changing almost as fast as the weather.

He said that, in order for the NHS to survive in the current tough economic climate, it would have to forge a system that values local communities and services, and tackle the gap between centre and the front line, between secondary and primary care, and between manager and clinician.

‘There is an ever widening disconnect between the high ideas, the discussions and the resolutions in Whitehall and those who are struggling to deliver their best for patients at the frontline of the NHS,' he said.

‘Clinicians, in particular, are too often alienated. Forget leading, far too many are not even engaged. Commissioning, in the sense of radical redesign, is the exception rather than the rule - even after nearly 20 years of trying.'

Dr Mike Dixon

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