HALT FAILING NHS POLICIES – doctors’ leader urges Blair

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The leader of the UK’s hospital consultants will today call for a halt to the government’s health privatisation policies that have ‘failed to improve patient care and cost the NHS billions’.

Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) consultants committee, says the government is wasting NHS money on costly private finance deals, private sector treatment centres and needless management consultants.

In a speech to senior hospital doctors attending the annual consultants’ conference, Dr Miller will say: ‘Care is suffering, jobs are disappearing, patients and staff are paying the price.

‘If a patient gets worse instead of better with treatment, then it’s time to figure out whether the diagnosis or the treatment is wrong.

‘Something is going very badly wrong with these health policies. It is time to call a halt. Examine what is not working and why.’

NHS ‘deficits’ are the fault of poorly-designed policies and political interference, says Dr Miller: ‘The deficits are clustered in a few areas and are caused by local service management and strategic planning failure, often caused by political interference with proper local service planning.

‘But most particularly they are caused by bad policies and shocking incompetence inflicted on the whole service from the top, from Whitehall.

‘And a large part of that is an excessive keenness and liking for expensive management consultants.’

The government’s private finance initiative (PFI) and contracts with private ‘independent’ sector treatment centres (ISTCs) also come under fire.

Dr Miller refers to £130 million wasted on three controversial PFI projects alone and money ploughed into private ISTCs where the extra capacity was neither used nor needed.

His speech follows that of prime minister Blair at a London conference of international businessmen, local government bosses and academics yesterday, where he said that privatisation ‘reform will be extended’, claiming it made no difference whether public services were delivered by the private or public sector.

At the same conference, chancellor Brown had the nerve to claim that ‘around the world what is driving inflation upwards is service sector labour costs’ and the government will for the next three years ‘maintain this discipline of low overall pay settlements’, in fact, wage cutting awards of 2.25 per cent annually.

Blair had begun his day with the bosses of Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Smith Industries at a health seminar over breakfast at Downing Street, where he set out ways that ‘private firms can help hospital trusts’.

Members of around 15 Foundation Trusts and FTSE 100 companies gathered in Number 10, where Blair told them he wanted to forge a link to let business managers give their ‘time and expertise’ to improve health services.

The meeting was slammed by the Transport and General Workers Union. TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley said: ‘If the government is to claw back support from those core Labour voters who have deserted them, this is not the way to go about it.

‘The T&G always said Foundation Hospitals were pathfinders to privatisation and this looks like further confirmation we were right.

‘The NHS is the jewel in the crown of our public services but is being flawed by these ill-advised forays into the private sector.’

• In his opening address to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) annual conference today, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka will attack the government for trying to shift the blame for ‘failing policies’ on to the civil service.

Serwotka will warn of a civil service battered, bruised and riven with discontent and will call on the government to take responsibility for its policies, rather than crude scapegoating.

He will also warn the chancellor that moves to further drive down pay in the public sector will antagonise a workforce riddled with pay inequality and low wages.