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BMA hits out at NHS commercialisation

Published on 15/02/10 at 11:38am
BMA cartoon
The BMA campaign highlights the 'wasteful' use of the private sector

The British Medical Association is urging the public to resist the role of private companies in the NHS.

Its Look After our NHS campaign will highlight the cost of such firms running services like independent treatment centres, which the doctors’ association say waste public money and have an adverse effect on patient care.

The role of the private sector in the NHS has a chequered past - embraced by the government over the last decade as a way of improving patient choice but unpopular with doctors' leaders.

The BMA will this week send out campaign packs to 100,000 doctors and medical students in England. The posters and leaflets call on the public to “help us put patients before profits” will be made available to GP practices and hospitals.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: “We want an NHS with patients, not profits, at its heart. The public values the NHS as a publicly provided, publicly funded service. Like doctors, they do not want vital funding to be diverted to shareholders.

“NHS staff see on a daily basis the waste of taxpayers’ money caused by this fixation with market ideology. Particularly as the public purse strings tighten, it is crucial that public money is no longer wasted on expensive commercial experiments.

The BMA is also concerned that private firms put their shareholders before frontline care and that this shall create a negative culture within the NHS of ‘profit before public’.  

The campaign first began as a doctor-facing initiative in June 2009, and the BMA says this has widespread approval from its members.

“Doctors have already backed the campaign. Now members of the public can show politicians the extent of opposition to commercialisation of their NHS,” Dr Meldrum said.

The doctors' campaign packs warn of the increase in time-consuming bureaucracy and the number of senior managers in the NHS, which the BMA sais has increased at more than double the rate of doctor and nurses numbers over the past 15 years.

The BMA has raised concerns over NHS privatisation ever since Labour introduced private finance initiatives (PFI) and public private partnerships (PPP) in 2001, warning it could lead to a complete commericalisation of the NHS.

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