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BMA hits out against ‘politically motivated’ GP access targets



The BMA is calling for doctors to have more of a say in how the NHS is run, with new research revealing three quarters of the public believe politicians are designing health policy to win votes.

Doctors should be allowed to lead decisions on how care is delivered, the BMA said, as politicans are ‘lining up’ to announce vote-winning pledges to improve GP access without addressing the root of general practice’s problems.

The call follows an IPSOS MORI public opinion poll, commissioned by the BMA ahead of its Annual Representatives Meeting in Harrogate this week, which showed that the public think doctors should play a larger role in NHS decision making than politicians, or NHS managers.

The poll of nearly 2000 UK adults found that two thirds think doctors should have a greater say in how the NHS is run. 55% thought doctors should be highly involved in the NHS decision making process, compared to 34% for NHS managers and 11% for politicians – and almost three quarters of the public thought politicians were designing health policy to win votes, rather than to improve the NHS.

And, only one third of the public thought Parliament should be setting overall targets for the NHS.

BMA Council chair Dr Mark Porter said that with the election looming politicians were making pledges to appeal to voters rather than addressing the challenges facing the health service.

Dr Porter said: ‘The Government promised to remove micromanagement from the NHS and yet the opposite has happened. There are even claims that NHS England, set up to be independent of Whitehall, is being manipulated for political purposes.’

‘Now, a year out from the next election, we’re already seeing politicians lining up politically motivated, not clinically driven changes to GP services.’

‘Demands to offer appointments within 48-hours, or to increase access to seven days a week might look good on a leaflet but they don’t address the challenges that have left GPs struggling to deliver the care, time and appointments their patients need.’

He added: ‘It is time to allow doctors to do what they do best – lead the delivery of high quality patient care.’

The Prime Minister recently announced the winning bids for a £50m Challenge Fund, aimed as improving GP access by piloting seven day working and telehealth schemes.

The Labour party has also announced that if they won at the next election they would reintroduce the 48-hour waiting time target for GP appointments, and were considering making it a contractual requirement.