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Reaction to the BMA campaign launch

By Lilian Anekwe

The BMA's campaign to help stave off the threat of private sector expansion in general practice has recived a hostile reception from NHS and business leaders.

The ‘Look After Our NHS' campaign – launched today - will send campaign packs to all 100,000 BMA members containing posters and leaflets urging patients to show their support for a publicly-funded NHS.

But it has drawn stinging criticism from the social think-tank Civitas, who branded the campaign ‘misguided and foolhardy' and attacked the BMA for being ‘out of touch with the public and trying to protect their own from radical changes that will be required.'

James Gubb, director of the health unit at Civitas, said: ‘The BMA's stance goes to the heart of the debate in the NHS at present: whether the financial challenges facing the NHS meant taxpayers' money should be spent supporting NHS providers, or spent on the provider – NHS or non-NHS – that can offer the best deal on quality and cost'.

‘I suspect most of the public would side with the latter. Affinity lies with the values underlying the NHS: universal, comprehensive health care, free-at-the-point-of-use, rather than who provides the service'.

Business leaders also registered their opposition to the campaign. Susan Anderson, the CBI 's director for public services and skills, said: ‘We agree that patients should come first. That's why they should be allowed to have their healthcare delivered by the best provider, irrespective of whether they are from the private, voluntary or public sector.

‘We shouldn't deny high-quality healthcare to communities just because it is offered by private sector providers as part of the NHS. The squeezing of public finances and increasing life expectancy make change inevitable. Maintaining the status quo is not an option.'

And NHS Confederation director of policy Nigel Edwards warned ruling out use of independent and third sector providers in the NHS would be ‘unwise'.

‘With the £20billion of savings in the NHS required over the next five years, the focus must continue on reducing costs while also driving up quality.

‘Given the scale of this challenge, to rule out any use of the independent or third sector would remove a very important source of innovation and change that can help to deliver improvements.'