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BMA chair lobbies Labour to avoid another NHS reorganisation

Exclusive The BMA is making a high-level bid to avoid another ‘damaging’ reorganisation of the NHS if the Labour party get into power in 2015, Pulse has learnt.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said that he was in Brighton this week to persuade the Labour party that if it forms the next Government, then another round of big changes to the NHS would ‘take people’s eye off the ball’.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has previously said that it will ‘repeal’ the Health and Social Care Act and legislate to better integrate health and social care. A call that was echoed by party leader Ed Miliband in his speech yesterday.

But Dr Porter said that he was at the Labour conference to persuade Labour’s leaders that there was little evidence that changing the organisation again will improve quality.

Dr Porter said: ‘The coalition Government has done one [reorganisation], the Labour party, which is potentially the next Government, is thinking of doing one. We want to talk about what has been happening recently and what reorganisations can do to take people’s eye off the ball.’

But he admitted that it may be an uphill struggle: ‘It is an interesting message to sell, the one of “please don’t change very much”, to a party which is in opposition and hoping to be the next Government, because of course the very first temptation that an incoming secretary of state has is exactly to do that. But there is little or no evidence that changing the organisation again will improve quality, which is what we are here to do. There is a lot of evidence that top-down reorganisations damage the service.’

BMA does however want Labour to amend the Health and Social Care Act if they come into power by removing the bias towards competition.

Dr Porter said: ‘That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t things that should be done and one of the things that should be done is to take away this experiment of a purchaser/provider split with privatisation which the current Government has taken from the last Labour government and accelerated. Section 75 is a small part of the overall thrust towards a commercially competitive environment instead of an integrated service for patients.’

‘The message is to, for Gods sake, not do more structural reorganisation but that is not to say that we can’t remove the pernicious influence of commercial competition in the NHS - but let’s not reform all of the organisations that deliver healthcare yet again.’

Mr Burnham said in January that he would give budgets currently held by GPs on CCGs to health and wellbeing boards instead, but Dr Porter said those plans were premature.

He said: ‘We have had six months of this policy. That is six months of a policy which was meant to reset the NHS for a generation and already they are saying “it is not working, let’s reform all of the organisations” - that is insane.’