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BMA warns of trying times ahead

4 January 2011

The NHS faces a “defining year” ahead as unprecedented financial pressures and an unnecessarily ambitious programme of reform in England begin to take effect warns the BMA.

In his New Year message to doctors, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said:

“There is no doubt that 2011 will be an exceptionally testing time for the NHS, patients and the profession. Set against a backdrop of an unprecedented financial challenge, with efficiency savings of at least £20 billion being sought in England alone, the Government is pushing ahead, at break-neck speed, with an unnecessarily ambitious programme of reform in England.

“The NHS is facing similar financial challenges in the devolved nations and it is only of little comfort that this is not combined with the additional burden of organisational upheaval.

“As doctors and clinical leaders, your role in dealing with the current demands, protecting the quality of patient care and helping to ensure the future viability of NHS services, will be crucial. I am confident that the profession will rise to the challenge and will do its part to minimise any adverse impact on patients. However, the profession can’t do it alone.”

Talking about the government’s planned reforms to the NHS in England, Dr Meldrum said:

“The Government’s response to its consultation on the White Paper, Liberating the NHS, was a missed opportunity to demonstrate to the profession, and others, that it genuinely was listening to the concerns that many had put forward.

“Whilst we support proposals to increase clinical involvement in the design and delivery of healthcare, enable greater public and patient involvement and put the focus on quality and outcomes, rather than crude targets, we have real concerns about other aspects of the planned reforms. In particular, the lack of detail in many areas, the increasing emphasis on competition and the market, and the significant risks created by the process of rushed and unnecessarily risky transition, particularly at a time of such financial stringency.

“Despite some of our scepticism, and, more so, because of our concerns, I believe there is a continuing need for the profession to remain closely involved in how the NHS develops, in putting our evidence for change forward, and in reflecting how the NHS is delivered differently across the UK.

“2011 will be a defining year – one in which the NHS will be tested to the limit. The BMA will continue fighting to improve the quality of care for patients, protect the values that ensure the NHS thrives, enhance the working lives of those who work within it, and guard against the threats facing the profession at large to ensure a better future for all.”

Read the full message from Dr Meldrum on the BMA website at www.bma.org.uk/representation/newyearmessagehamish.jsp

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