BMA SLAMS DIRECT PAYMENTS – Healthcare as a commodity’

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The Health Bill introduced by the government yesterday ‘undermines the founding principles of the NHS’, warned Unison – while the BMA said the bill ‘turns healthcare into a commodity’.

Condemning the introduction of ‘personal budgets’ for patients, Unison Head of Health Karen Jennings said: ‘We are in real danger of creating a situation where patients use their personal budget ineffectively and then, like Oliver Twist, go back for more.

‘Or, patients will be persuaded to top up their budgets from their own savings, undermining the very founding principle of free healthcare for all.’

The British Medical Association said it had ‘significant concerns’ over the introduction of personal care budgets for NHS patients.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA said: ‘We await the outcome of the pilot of direct payments, but believe they may not be the best way of giving patients more power.

‘It is currently very unclear how such a system would work in practice, for example what would happen when a patient’s budget ran out.

‘Moreover, this policy seems to further establish the idea of healthcare as a commodity, which the BMA does not believe is in patients’ best interests.’

An RCN spokesman said the bill ‘would be a fundamental change in the way resources are allocated.

‘We also have concerns and are consulting with our members about the NHS Constitution.’

North London consultant surgeon and BMA Council member, Anna Athow told News Line: ‘The new Bill brings in further huge attacks on a publicly provided NHS.

‘The proposed new NHS Constitution enshrines a duty that NHS work must be carried out in partnership with all sectors, including the private sector.

‘Every hospital trust must produce a Quality Account by adhering to certain standards.

‘Those trusts which don’t measure up will face financial penalties, which could cause a spiral of debt, and possible “unsustainability”.

‘To address this the bill would establish a “regime for unsustainable NHS providers”, which would close a failing trust in 120 days.

‘This bill is a huge attack on the NHS and must be opposed completely by the health trade unions.’