‘Bring PFI into public ownership’ – BMA conference decides

BMA delegates show their opposition en masse to NHS privatisation at their Annual Representative Meeting in Liverpool yesterday
BMA delegates show their opposition en masse to NHS privatisation at their Annual Representative Meeting in Liverpool yesterday

DOCTORS at the BMA conference yesterday voted for Motion 269, which stated: ‘That this meeting requests government, in view of new-found enthusiasm for the nationalisation of banks, to nationalise the NHS and bring PFIs into public ownership.’

Mover Dr Paul Flynn said: ‘The government says banks are too big to fail. Surely that applies to the NHS.

‘PFIs are expensive and cause toxic debts.

‘We have a bad taste in our mouth, seeing the billions put in to bail out banks.

‘I’d rather hear about a new hospital than about a banker’s pension.’

Dr Charles McNab said: ‘PFI was a clever way of disguising a significant proportion of the national debt.

‘It would be better to end this madness completely and bring ISTCs [Independent Sector Treatment Centre] back into the NHS as well as end the PFI.’

BMA Council chairman, Hamish Meldrum, advised conference: ‘GPs are independent contractors within the nationalised health service, so I don’t see any problem with the motion and ask you to support it.

‘So there’s no problem for our GP colleagues.’

Conference voted overwhelmingly for the motion with only a handful of votes against.

The meeting also voted overwhelmingly for Motion 297 in the section on Community Care and Mental Health.

The motion stated: ‘That this meeting understands that Community Treatment Orders are being implemented at rates far higher than expected.

‘This is the first evidence that the revised Mental Health Act in England and Wales is infringeing rights as the BMA predicted.’

Mover Dr Robin Arnold, from Bristol, said: ‘I have been on bodies for years to oppose the Mental Health Act.

‘Mental illness as a concept has been ignored.

‘We fought it. We said it would be anti-civil rights but the government pushed it through.

‘There have been 2,000 Community Treatment Orders since October.’

He said: ‘I’m not opposed to Community Treatment Orders. The problem is the rate at which they are occurring.

‘They are the litmus test of the Mental Health Act, which infringes human rights.’

‘The government is setting up hospitals to fail and is planning a mass hospital closure programme’, consultant surgeon Anna Athow warned the BMA Annual Meeting.

She was moving Motion 268 on NHS Funding and Finance, which states: ‘The health bill legislates that the Secretary of State for Health can close down, or franchise out to the private sector, any NHS acute hospital or provider in England within 120 days, if deemed financially or clinically ‘unsustainable’.

‘This meeting calls on the BMA to campaign for proper funding of NHS hospitals and units, in the first instance, so that they can perform to high standard, and to oppose their closure or takeover by the private sector.’

In her speech, Athow said: ‘A Trust Special Administrator will be able to enter any unit deemed clinically or financially “unsustainable’’, take some soundings and organise its closure, or transfer to new management including the private sector, with the permission of the Health Secretary.

‘There never used to be a requirement for NHS hospitals to be run as a “sustainable’’ business.

‘Now there is, and every Trust had to become a Foundation Trust business by December 2008.

‘These have to break even or make a surplus.

‘They cut £10 million at Stafford in order to become a Foundation Trust.’

She stressed: ‘Trusts are being set up to fail.

‘If they don’t cut spending, they financially fail.

‘If they do, they can’t provide high-quality care.

‘And what is the plan for these “unsustainable’’ providers and trusts, which may never make it to Foundation Trust status, and so far 60 haven’t?

‘The Department of Health proposes – merger, acquisition, break-up, franchising to public or private management, closure or sell-off to the private sector.

‘It’s been estimated that one Trust could be culled every two months.’

She concluded: ‘The BMA must insist that NHS acute units are properly funded.’

The motion was lost, although a sizeable minority (about 40 per cent of delegates) voted for it.