By Gareth Iacobucci
The health White Paper is a ‘curate’s egg’ which offers both threats and opportunities for doctors, BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has said, in the association’s most detailed response yet to the Government’s far-reaching plans.
In a letter to GPs, other doctors and medical students, Dr Meldrum said the health White Paper’s plans for reform of the NHS in England were ‘good in parts, bad in parts, unclear in parts and even internally inconsistent in parts.’
He said the overhaul would offer opportunities for doctors to take greater control over their working lives and the design of services, but also warned of ‘perceived threats to education and national terms and conditions of service,’ and concerns that the changes ‘will increase the role of the market in healthcare.’
His stance reflects a split in opinion on the plans among doctors, with GP opinion veering between bullish and nervous, and consultants understood to be anxious at the prospect of general practice holding the majority of NHS commissioning budgets.
On the GP-commissioning revamp, Dr Meldrum wrote: ‘The BMA has made it abundantly clear that, for commissioning to be successful, there must be the fullest engagement with secondary care colleagues and, indeed, with the public.’
‘There is an opportunity here for doctors to take more control over their working lives and the design of services for their patients, but only by working together, in partnership, will doctors be able to maintain or even improve these services in these financially constrained times.’
Dr Meldrum said that the BMA would ‘critically engage’ with the Government’s consultation on the White Paper, and would seek the views of its members on how to take the proposals forward constructively.
He said: ‘I am in no doubt that this is a very challenging agenda and that it is not without risk.’
‘There are challenges for the NHS, for the profession and for the BMA but I believe that it is vital that we rise to the challenge and, together, try to ensure that we mould these proposals into a set of solutions that can benefit our patients and the working lives of doctors.’
Dr Hamish Meldrum: ‘A very challenging agenda, and not without risk’ Dr Hamish Meldrum: ‘A very challenging agenda, and not without risk’ Read Dr Meldrum’s letter in full
To read Dr Meldrum’s letter to the profession in full, please click here.