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Private companies slam 'divisive' BMA patient pledge plans

The BMA’s plans to issue patients with pledge cards to block referrals to private providers is putting ‘political prejudice ahead of patients’ interests’, says the alliance representing independent providers.

The claim comes after Pulse revealed BMA Council were considering the plans to record patient preferences on NHS treatment from private providers in their notes in an effort to step up its opposition to the Government’s NHS reforms.

In contrast, the Department of Health said although it wanted to give patients the best treatment available, they were ‘free to express a preference’.

The cards would issue pledge will allow patients to stipulate a preference to be treated only by NHS providers whenever possible, and will be considered at this month’s GPC meeting.

However, David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, said the organisation was ‘disappointed and shocked that the BMA is considering such a divisive scheme’.

He said: ‘Surely at a time when the NHS is facing such unprecedented challenges we should all work together to ensure patients have access to the care that best suits their needs – whether that is from NHS or independent organisations.’

The overwhelming majority of the public ‘do not mind who provides their care’ so long as it was free at the point of delivery and of high quality, Mr Worskett said.  

 ‘Will any GP really face up to a patient and say: “You could go to an excellent independent hospital, paid for by the NHS, which is more convenient for you and can give you quicker treatment of the highest quality but I’m afraid you’ve already ruled that option out by signing your political pledge card”,’ he added.

The group also claimed that this would most affect lower socio-economic groups because it would deny them ‘real choice’.

‘The public will not be impressed by the BMA putting political prejudice ahead of patients’ interests,’ Worskett said.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘We want patients to get the best treatment free on the NHS whoever it is provided by.

‘Everyone is of course free to express a preference for who should provide their treatment - that is an integral part of choice.’

The Keep Our NHS Public campaign has revealed that it has sold around 15,000 of its postcards that instruct GPs that the patient wishes to be treated by an NHS provider.



Readers' comments (9)

  • Or it is offering patients choice! A choice they weren't able (or were witheld from making) at the last election.
    "The overwhelming majority of the public ‘do not mind who provides their care’ so long as it was free at the point of delivery and of high quality, Mr Worskett said." Then what exactly is the problem - they won't choose these cards, simple?

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  • This is a voluntary scheme and if patients don't want to use it they don't have to. What are you afraid of, Mr Worskett? That if patients are able to express this choice they may opt to favour the NHS? You say the overwhelming majority of patients dont mind who provides their care. Where is your evidence for that? If you are right then you should have nothing to worry about. If you are wrong, and a significant number of patients do want to have a way to show their preference and support for the NHS, then the patient pledge care will help them to do so.

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  • We as a profession already signed up to deliver the political project of Tory party, why not go a bit more in the politics of saving our NHS! What's wrong with that.

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  • Whilst some surveys show that it is true that patients are happy to receive care by the private sector as long as it is provided free at point of use, this completely misses the point that the privatisation and markestisationn of the NHS will fragment care and increase costs, leaving less money to be spent on direct patient care.
    The other key point is that private companies will only treat profitable conditions, whilst the public NHS hospitals have to provide comprehensive care. Many FTs are already in huge financial difficulties, just like PCTs/CCGs. The use of the private sector will put more financial strain on the system, leading to increased waiting lists and rationing of more and more services. This is the stimulus for a mixed funding system to develop and the demise of the NHS.
    I'm amazed that some GPs are so comfortable with referring their patients to provide providers, whilst their local FTs are in huge fianancial distress. If there is no alternative, or the local NHS service is poor, then fair enough, but the knock on effects should not be ignored. How is the local service going to improve if it has less income? It creates an inevitable downward spiral, with knock on effects for the good services being provided locally, which will suffer due to reduced hospital income.
    The issue of fragmentation and replication of servicies is also important. It often takes years to build a good local service and new private providers can have detrimental effects on the planning of services and income streams.
    GPs need to look at the big picture and this is what the NHS pledge card is about.

    Patients may be happy to have free treatment at a private sector facility, but if you tell them it may effect local services and their hospital may close or merge with another to stay afloat, I suspect their may answer the questionaires a bit differently. You only have to look at the local save our hospitals campaigns to understand this

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  • The intended beneficiaries of the Coalition's NHS reform (the private sector would-be "producer interests") are here expressing their displeasure that doctors are trying to act in the long-term best interests of their patients. It seems from the tenor of this article that the healthcare industry representatives consider that this patient pledge will reduce the amount of money they will be able to cream off the NHS budget. That suggests that the BMA is doing absolutely the right thing - patients definitely need protecting from the kind of spivs that the "Any Willing Provider" process* will welcome in to a share of the NHS budget. That NHS budget is scanty enough: when we have patients told that the NHS can now cover only one cataract operation although both eyes' condition merits it, what on earth is the government doing prioritising the diversion of public money to a set of organisations who we know from the start are doing their best to divert as much of it as possible into their own pockets?

    *now renamed AQP for the health sector, but without acquiring any extra qualifications - it's intended to make it as easy as possible for companies to enter any line of business that they want, now including our healthcare

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  • Another worrying point is the number of GP practices that have signed up in GPCos with Assura/Virgin Care, whereby patients are referred to clinics operated by Assura/Virgin Care for profit and half of that profit is fed back to the GP practices that refer the patients. All of this without the patient being aware that the referral choice is biased by kick-back considerations. Is this informed choice?

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  • Is this David Worskett even interested in what patients want? No, I don't think so. Does he realise (of course he does) that the NHS is not on a level playing field with his preferred corporate vultures? He certainly seems concerned, so I am going to buy a few packs of the postcards and distribute them amongst my friends, relations and clubs. Don't worry Mr Worskett, there are plenty of your money grubbing friends out there hoping to still make a killing off the skeleton that will be left of the NHS in England courtesy of this wholesale marketisation which not one citizen in England was asked about. You'll still be able to retire with your £s kept safely in some tax haven somewhere. I abhor your kind!

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  • We should be mindful of recent GMC advice that we must not allow our personal opinions to interfere with our advice to patients.Whilst this was specifically aimed at religious convictions, surely the same applies with politcal convictions?Asking patients to sign political pledges in the context of the consultation transgresses our ethical duties to offer that patient the best choice of (publicly-funded) therapy.It would be helpful to hear a GMC view on this.

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  • The overwhelming number of people who don't care about who runs services is taken from a 2009 survey they did which is copyrighted by the Partners network. The Tories and Worskett keep propagating it and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. If he mentions it again in Pulse lease don't publish his quote before checking where he is saying it from.

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