YESTERDAY Paul Miller, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Consultants Committee launched an unprecedented attack on the government over the introduction of private treatment centres.
Addressing this year’s BMA consultants’ conference, Miller said: ‘For over two-and-a-half years I and others in the BMA have been analysing the interactions of the policies of plurality of providers, Payments by Results and patient choice.
‘Patients want to be confident that wherever they choose, they will attend a hospital with low MRSA rates and will get to see a properly trained and appointed consultant.
‘A consultant with adequate time to devote to them working in a system which does not managerially drive them towards second best care for the sake of cost or targets.
‘They want a system which values the importance of training future doctors for their own old age and for their children; a system which upholds research to develop better treatments.
‘Consultants want all of these things too, but they are under threat as never before. So even though treatment centres could increase consultant pay, consultants are far more concerned about the effects on clinical standards.’
He added: ‘We warned that the system being created was a hugely unfair playing field between “old” NHS providers and “new” providers.
‘New providers will be paid more per case than the NHS while necessarily “cherry picking” the easiest cases.
‘They would have no responsibility for teaching or research. They would not have the cost of follow-up or complications.
‘Their out-of-hours emergency cover was questionable and we are less than convinced about the clinical quality of some of the doctors likely to be employed.
‘We warned that the inevitable result would be destabilisation of the NHS and closure of NHS units – not because they were clinically poor but simply because the rules were unfair.
‘Colleagues, we were right on all counts.
‘Certainly, as things stand I would not accept an MRI scan or elective surgery from these independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs).’
He went on to say: ‘For all its faults and accepting that all organisations can learn to be better, the problems I have been seeing with patients’ services in treatment centres makes me truly believe that the NHS is not only worth protecting and cherishing, it is the most important and valuable piece of social capital in our country.’