DEFEND DISTRICT GENERAL HOSPITALS – decides NHS Consultants conference

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A section of yesterday’s conference of the Central Consultants and Specialists Committee of the BMA
A section of yesterday’s conference of the Central Consultants and Specialists Committee of the BMA

The British Medical Association consultants conference yesterday voted overwhelmingly to ‘mount the strongest defence of integrated District General Hospitals’.

In his keynote speech to the conference, retiring chairman of the BMA consultants committee, Paul Miller said: ‘I believe passionately in the NHS.

‘Relieving patients of the burden of having to pay for care is one of the greatest gains we have made.’

He said NHS deficits ‘are caused by bad policies and shocking incompetence inflicted on the whole service from the top, from Whitehall.’

He said tens of millions of pounds were being wasted on management consultancies, huge trust executive salaries and the government’s ‘turnaround teams’ of City accountants.

‘How about tens of millions?’ he asked, citing the ‘huge waste of NHS money in Private Finance Initiative schemes’.

He went on to slam the ‘multi-billion contracts’ awarded to private Independent Treatment Centres, and government pressure forcing work out of the NHS, leading to the closure of beds and loss of NHS jobs.

Addressing the government he said if these policies continue: ‘You will destroy the NHS.’

He added: ‘Care is suffering, jobs are disappearing, patients and staff are paying the price.’

Delegates voted overwhelmingly for Motion 37 from London North East regional consultants and specialists committee (RCSC) stating: ‘Conference calls on the BMA to mount the strongest defence of integrated District General Hospitals and teaching hospitals and the training they provide.’

The motion also states: ‘This conference believes that the government’s fragmentation of NHS hospitals, in order to remove the profitable bits and hand them to private providers, must be vigorously resisted.’

Moving the motion, Mrs Anna Athow said: ‘District General Hospitals are under attack as never before from privatisation reforms and direct cuts.’

She added: ‘Payment by results is forcing managements to cut services which don’t make a profit at tariff.

‘As theatres close and our operating sessions are taken away, they tell us that 20 per cent of elective surgery has to be diverted into private treatment centres as part of “patient choice”.’

She warned: ‘PFI hospitals devastate services in order to pay back the building consortiums billions over the next 40 years.’

She insisted to applause that ‘these are political decisions’ for which the government ‘can give no clinical justification’.

Mrs Athow insisted: ‘District General Hospitals are one of the greatest gains of the NHS with consultant led integrated care to a high standard’ which the government plans to have ‘reduced to sink hospitals to end up in joint ventures with private providers.’

She concluded: ‘Emergency action must be taken to stop these hospitals closing.’

Athow later moved Motion 40 on behalf of London North East RCSC calling on the BMA to ‘organise a day of action to demand restoration of funding to NHS hospitals, and an end to privatisation and job cuts, and calls on other health service unions to support and all TUC unions to take strike action on that day.’

Athow told delegates: ‘The hour is very late. Our leaders insisted that talking to ministers was the way forward.’

She added: ‘We stand on the brink of disaster with consultants threatened with redundancies close on the heels of junior doctors and nurses.

‘The time for talking is over, we need action!

‘We should join up with other health unions and other public sector unions like the university lecturers, postmen and train drivers and organise a day of action to defend the NHS.’

The motion was lost with ten delegates voting for it after consultants committee deputy chairman Alan Russell claimed that while there were cuts in his northwest area ‘there is no talk of hospitals closing’, and consultants chairman Miller recommended delegates oppose saying ‘this is not the way’.

Earlier in the debate delegates had voted unanimously for motion 15 that condemns ‘the failure to provide an increase in the number of training places for junior doctors at Senior House Officer level’.

The motion also condemns the ‘treatment of junior doctors from overseas by the Department of Health, in changing the requirements for work permits with little warning and without consultation with the BMA.’

Delegates also voted unanimously for motion 20 stating ‘conference is gravely concerned that the DoH intends to establish a permanent sub consultant grade for those with CCT (Certificate of Consultant Training) in order to satisfy the Treasury and other demands.’