By Gareth Iacobucci
GPs are facing a ‘defining year’ ahead as the NHS strives to cope with unprecedented financial pressures on top of the Government’s ‘unnecessarily ambitious’ reforms in England, the BMA has warned.
In his New Year message to doctors, BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said he was confident that the profession would ‘rise to the challenge’, but said it was imperative that their concerns about the ‘break-neck’ speed of the reforms were properly heeded.
He said: ‘There is no doubt that 2011 will be an exceptionally testing time for the NHS, patients and the profession. Set against a backdrop of an unprecedented financial challenge, the Government is pushing ahead, at break-neck speed, with an unnecessarily ambitious programme of reform in England.
‘As doctors and clinical leaders, your role in dealing with the current demands, protecting the quality of patient care and helping to ensure the future viability of NHS services, will be crucial. I am confident that the profession will rise to the challenge and will do its part to minimise any adverse impact on patients. However, the profession can’t do it alone.’
Dr Meldrum said the Government’s response to its consultation on the reforms was ‘a missed opportunity’ to demonstrate that it ‘genuinely was listening to the concerns that many had put forward’.
He said: ‘Whilst we support proposals to increase clinical involvement in the design and delivery of healthcare, enable greater public and patient involvement and put the focus on quality and outcomes, rather than crude targets, we have real concerns about other aspects of the planned reforms.
‘In particular, the lack of detail in many areas, the increasing emphasis on competition and the market, and the significant risks created by the process of rushed and unnecessarily risky transition, particularly at a time of such financial stringency.
‘Despite some of our scepticism, and, more so, because of our concerns, I believe there is a continuing need for the profession to remain closely involved in how the NHS develops, in putting our evidence for change forward, and in reflecting how the NHS is delivered differently across the UK.
‘2011 will be a defining year – one in which the NHS will be tested to the limit.’
Meanwhile, in a separate New Year message to doctors north of the border, Dr Brian Keighley, chair of the BMA in Scotland, warned that attacks on the medical workforce would severely test the goodwill of the profession.
He said: ‘The Government is playing a dangerous game with the medical profession. Pay freezes, threats to pensions, and the ever-increasing workload being dumped, without resource, on general practice, is driving the Government and doctors apart at a time when partnership is required.
‘The NHS cannot operate without the goodwill of doctors and other staff. The Government should remember that and work with us; otherwise the NHS will certainly struggle to get through these difficult times.’
Dr Hamish Meldrum