HOSPITALS WILL CLOSE! –warn BMA and Audit Commission


THE British Medical Association yesterday challenged the Blair government to say what will happen to chronically ill or emergency patients, ‘if the local hospital is threatened with closure’ as a result of Payment by Results.

Warning of an imminent wave of cuts and closures in the NHS, the BMA said the government’s new NHS funding system was ‘skewed’ in favour of the private sector and did not reflect ‘the true costs of treating the patient’.

This was after an Audit Commission report warned that there were ‘real dangers for the NHS’, when Payment by Results is expanded in April 2006, replacing the current system of block contracts.

The BMA said: ‘Some NHS units will be forced to close if they fail to attract sufficient funding and the Government needs to be honest about what that means for the future of the NHS and whether such consequences will truly be in the best interests of patients.’

The doctors’ organisation asked: ‘What about the less profitable aspects of care, like managing chronic disease or treating emergencies?

‘How will they be provided when the local hospital is threatened with closure?’

The Audit Commission report said: ‘Concerns about the risks to individual bodies and to the NHS as a whole remain valid, if not heightened.’

Karen Jennings, head of health at UNISON, the largest NHS trade union, said: ‘Payment by Results is bad news for patients and the NHS.

‘There is a very real danger that the new pricing system will distort clinical priorities because some patients will be more “profitable’’ than others.

‘Hospitals will be pitted against each other to get the patients with the highest price tag and no-one will want to carry out the less profitable operations.

‘These differences in funding will drive a wedge between hospitals who previously would have worked together.’

A further warning was issued by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), of 1,000 nursing posts being cut.

Warning that patient care would suffer, RCN General Secretary Beverly Malone said any cuts would be ‘unacceptable’.

‘We are putting a spotlight on this issue now before it is too late,’ she said.

One trust, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is already considering scrapping up to 200 nursing posts.

The government regards Payment by Results as fundamental to its ‘modernisation’ – privatisation – drive, and said it intends to carry on, ignoring a resolution put by UNISON at the Labour Party conference, ‘calling for the brakes to be put on the Government’s market-led reforms’.