BMA Council Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, wrote to doctors and medical students yesterday, following publication of the health White Paper for England, which proposes ‘very significant changes to the organisation of health services in England.’
In the letter, Dr Meldrum likens the White Paper to a ‘large curate’s egg; good in parts, bad in parts, unclear in parts and even internally inconsistent in parts’.
He says that the paper contains ‘perceived threats to education and national terms and conditions of service,’ and voiced concerns ‘that it will increase the role of the market in healthcare’.
Dr Meldrum says: ‘I am in no doubt that this is a very challenging agenda and that it is not without risk.’
He added: ‘I believe that it is vital that we rise to the challenge and, together, try to ensure that we mould these proposals into a set of solutions that can benefit our patients and the working lives of doctors.’
The BMA said it will be seeking the views of its members as it responds to the consultation.
In his letter, Dr Meldrum wrote: ‘Government has clearly indicated its overall direction of travel and non-engagement in the consultation period would greatly increase the risk of bringing about the adverse outcomes that many of you fear.
‘The proposals will have a huge impact on you and your patients and it is through critical engagement that the BMA will be best able to ensure that the views of the profession are represented in the consultation process.’
He wrote: ‘By engaging with the consultation process, the BMA is not deserting our “Look After our NHS” campaign. Quite the reverse.
‘We believe that it is only by responding critically to the challenges and the potential consequences of the government’s proposals that we can defend the founding principles of the NHS and the principles underpinning our campaign.
‘Although the proposals in the White Paper apply to doctors working in the NHS in England, we are aware of concerns of colleagues in the three other nations that these proposals could have an adverse, knock-on effect in their countries.
‘These concerns lie particularly in the areas of education and training, the preservation of national terms and conditions of service and whether unwelcome aspects of the market might leak across the English border.
‘I wish to assure you that the BMA will listen to these concerns and will be doing all it can to support members during this time.’