Political leaders should ‘abandon pro-market policies’ and not just ‘love the NHS’, but look after it, said doctors’ leaders yesterday.
The Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Dr Hamish Meldrum welcomed the defence of the NHS by leading Labour and Tory politicians.
However, he called on them to abandon pro-market policies, warning that they are undermining the core values of the NHS in England.
Commenting on the current debate on the merits of the US and UK healthcare systems, Meldrum said: ‘It’s great to see our leading politicians defending the NHS so robustly against these dishonest attacks from the American pro-market lobby.
‘But it’s ironic that Labour and the Conservatives are both pursuing policies which are moving us slowly towards an American style system.
‘If they really love the NHS, they should stop encouraging private companies to profit from it.
‘It’s not too late for our politicians to acknowledge that private provision of NHS services has wasted huge amounts of taxpayers’ money.
‘I believe the party leaders are genuine when they say they are really proud of the work of NHS staff.
‘But they should let them get on with providing healthcare, and stop forcing them to compete with each other, or with private companies.
‘They should listen to what doctors and nurses are saying and, as a start, ditch private management consultants from the NHS.
‘The NHS is not perfect – we must always seek to improve it and should not be afraid to learn from others.
‘But the market-style philosophy of the US is a lesson we could do well without.’
Public sector union Unison yesterday announced that it is sending an NHS fact file to its sister unions in the United States, to ‘counter the lies being peddled’ by right-wing groups about the NHS.
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘I, like so many other people in the UK, owe my life to the NHS.
‘We are outraged by the gross lies and distortions being spread in the US about our NHS.
‘A universal health system that is free at the point of need is something that we can all be proud of – it is a mark of a civilised, caring society.
‘People love the NHS in this country because it is always there for them when they need it.
‘Regardless of your income, the NHS provides peace of mind even at the most uncertain economic times, like those we’re experiencing now.
‘In the US, losing your job means losing your health insurance.
‘America may be the world’s richest nation, but almost 50 million people there are not covered by health insurance, so President Obama is to be congratulated for trying to bring in health reform.
‘Unison is sending its fact file to our sister unions in the States, to give them the ammunition to fire at the NHS detractors.
‘They will see for themselves the truth about how our NHS operates and how patients are treated.’
• Unison has sent its file to: AFL-CIO, SEIU – Service Employees International Union – the largest union in North America and the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – the largest public employee and healthcare union in the United States, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Utility Workers Union of America, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and Change to Win.