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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.