‘WE ARE THE BEDROCK OF THE NHS’ – declares doctors’ conference

GPs voting against ‘commercialisation of the NHS’
GPs voting against ‘commercialisation of the NHS’

Over 400 family doctor delegates at the British Medical Association (BMA) GPs conference on Thursday expressed their anger and voted no confidence in the government’s stewardship of the NHS, and over Brown, Johnson and Darzi’s privatisation drive.

At the Local Medical Committees (LMCs) Conference in central London, doctors applauded their leaders’ delivery of an over 1.2 million-signature ‘Support Your Surgery’ patients’ petition to 10 Downing Street.

GP delegates voted unanimously for Motion 10 supporting traditional GP surgeries.

Mover Dr Greg Place, Nottinghamshire LMC, said: ‘We exist only for the benefit of patients and not for our shareholders.’

He added: ‘We are the bedrock of the NHS – ever since 1948.’

And he called on the government to ‘invest in us, we are the rock on which the NHS stands.’

In the debate Dr Rob Sandler, Kent LMC, said: ‘Patients come first in our lives, not targets or budgets.’

Attacking polyclinics, he added: ‘We do not want to provide slot machine medicine. Mr Brown you are very, very wrong.’

Dr Kailash Chand moved successful Motion 32 on behalf of the Conference Agenda Committee.

It stated that ‘the present political threats to general practice are unprecedented’ and called for ‘unprecedented action’ to demonstrate ‘the profession’s concern’.

The motion also called on the BMA GPs Committee ‘to make tackling this destructive ambition a key priority’.

Dr Chand said: ‘We have to show we are determined to defend general pratice for patients.

‘We are here not only to defend our jobs but patient care which will be destroyed by commercialisation.’

Delegates voted unanimously for Motion 39: ‘That conference has no confidence in the UK government’s stewardship of the NHS.’

They also voted, with just a handful against, for a rider expressing ‘no confidence in the secretary of state for health’s stewardship of the NHS.’

Mover Dr John Grenville, Derbyshire LMC, asked: ‘Does the government look after the NHS the way the public wants? The answer has to be a resounding “no”.’

He added: ‘It is not just primary care; look at the three leading policies of the Department of Health across the NHS over the past few years – payment by results, practice-based commissioning and patient choice – they are mutually incompatible.’

Grenville said: ‘The UK government has lost the confidence of the UK’s doctors, but does it care? Well no, it doesn’t seem to – it just ploughs on regardless.’

Warning of ‘creeping commercialisation of the NHS’ he said: ‘Once the huge multinationals have got themselves established on both sides of the commissioner/provider split, it’s not going to be difficult to arrange the financial flows to turn NHS expenditure into profits.

‘You only need to cream off a tiny percentage of the money that the public puts into the NHS to make megabucks.’

Dr Grenville concluded that the public ‘wants a compassionate, individualised health service that regards them as people with health problems and concerns, not a target-driven, commercial service that regards them as consumers with money attached.’

In the debate Dr Paul Hobday, Kent NHS, said: ‘The secretary of state is using the old dishonest political trick to claim it’s just the BMA against his policies. How out of touch you are Mr Johnson.’

Hobday added that even Tory premier Thatcher ‘didn’t have the balls to do what Blair and Brown have done. She merely tried to starve it to death.’

Referring to Johnson, he added: ‘No NHS staff I know support your commercialisation, and most fear an NHS won’t exist in a few years if you continue to entice your vulture friends in big business.’

He concluded: ‘This government is doing to the NHS what Ronnie Biggs and Reggie Kray did for law and order.’

In a combined debate, delegates voted no confidence in health minister Lord Darzi and his reviews of general practice and the NHS, which are aimed at closing district general hospitals and traditional doctors’ surgeries to replace them with privately-run polyclinics and treatment centres.

In the debate, Dr Preston de Mendonca said: ‘Darzi’s plans will hand public money to private providers.’

Dr Stephen Amiel, Camden and Islington LMC, said: ‘Three Camden surgeries have been awarded to an American corporation steeped in fraud, despite local GPs putting in higher quality bids at lower-than-average costs and despite unanimous opposition from patients.’

He warned: ‘In a few months, the PCT will declare that out-of-hours care and unscheduled care need to be unified and, guess what, European law means that, regrettably, the whole shooting match must be competitively tendered.

‘Gift-wrapped polyclinics: enter Virgin, United Health, Tesco.’

Amiel called for all the anti-Darzi motions to be supported unanimously.

Dr Tony Stanton of London-wide LMCs warned: ‘NHS London is likely to give the green light to polyclinics.

‘Don’t relax, this is a bitter dispute.’

Dr Bruce Hughes, Devon LMC, added: ‘The government’s commercialisation drive will allow big business to come into the NHS.

‘Our prime minister is not interested in what a mess we are in.’

Dr Sian Job, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth LMC, said: ‘There is no evidence the government understands our profession.

‘No way will polyclinics seeing 600 patients in a morning be as good as us for our patients.

‘The government is intent on imposing change on their terms.’

Dr Phil Garnett, North Yorkshire LMC, told the conference: ‘The PCT, largely due to GPs help, has made significant savings and has managed to achieve in-year financial balance.

‘But £1 million will be taken out of existing services to pay a private, commercial organisation through an APMS (Alternative Provider of Medical Services) contract to run a service with higher costs and lower QOF (Qualty and Outcomes Framework) scores than GMS and PMS practices, with loss of continuity of care, increased referrals to secondary care and more acute admissions.

‘Why would you duplicate a service where there is no unmet need, wasting precious resources and potentially destabilising existing GP practices.

‘This is nothing more than a cynical ploy by this government to increase private companies’ provision of primary care, destabilising and ultimately destroying the universality of NHS general practice in this country because it thinks by doing so it can provide primary care cheaper.

‘The inevitable consequence of this is a two-tier service with only the patients who can afford to pay having access to the excellent standard of care available to all.’

He stressed: ‘ This is about the cynically-engineered destruction of NHS general practice in this country by a government that doesn’t give a damn about the welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society.’

GPs Committee chairman Dr Laurence Buckman appealed to conference not to vote ‘no confidence in Darzi’ personally but against his policies.

However, delegates voted ‘no confidence in Lord Darzi as health minister’ almost unanimously – with only one voting against.