NHS White Paper Means Hospital Closures

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Hospitals could face closure to make space for private providers, warns a new report from the NHS managers’ organisation.

Ahead of the publication on Wednesday of the government’s Health and Social Care Bill, the NHS Confederation warns that the biggest restructuring of the service since its creation in 1948 is ‘extraordinarily risky’.

The report says: ‘The absence of any compelling story about why the reforms are necessary or how they will translate into improved outcomes is of concern.’

It also criticises ‘unpleasant and demotivating’ attacks on NHS managers, who are being purged while expected to drive through the ‘reforms’.

The health chiefs’ report says the switch to a system based on ‘any willing provider’, will force the NHS to make closures in order to make space for new private healthcare providers.

The NHS Confederation warns that increasing efficiency ‘will not happen naturally when, as in the case of the NHS, the size of the total market is not increasing.

‘Closure of existing services will be necessary.’

Its report urges the NHS to resolve ‘difficult questions about hospital configuration’ – that is, to shut departments or even entire hospitals before the planned GP consortia start work in 2013.

It adds that Lansley’s new policy of ‘price competition’, allowing hospitals to compete for patients, also poses a risk to standards of care.

Responding to the report, a British Medical Association (BMA) spokesperson told News Line yesterday: ‘It’s clear that the concerns of the BMA about the pace, scale, and potentially disastrous impact of these changes, are held by many other organisations.

‘Accelerating market reforms in the current financial climate is hugely risky.

‘It’s time for the government to start listening.’

Speaking in a personal capacity, BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘The report re-iterates what campaigners against the White Paper have been saying, that GPs will be given the job of rationing through GP commissioning consortia in England.

‘The NHS will no longer be “preferred provider” of clinical services, as private providers will be encouraged to compete for contracts on price. This is called the “any willing provider” policy and “patient choice”.

‘As £20bn cuts to the NHS are being pushed through in England, the Department of Health is instructing the incoming National Commissioning Board and GP consortia to take over the debts of the outgoing PCTs and ration care on a massive scale.

‘Dozens of District General Hospitals are down for closure with top of the list, King George and Chase Farm hospitals in London.

‘Clearly, if NHS money has to be diverted to private providers, there has to be a massive reduction in capacity of NHS providers.

‘The all-round care which these hospitals give, which include A&E, 24-hour operating theatres, large medical inpatients wards, intensive care and maternity cannot be provided by cheapskate private providers at a profit.

‘We are told however that the report accepts the need for reforms.

‘Clearly, the Health Bill should be opposed in its entirety and the £20bn cuts annulled.

‘The logic of the situation demands that the health unions should pull out of these alliances, and start holding special conferences of their members to mobilise and defeat this bill and defend our publicly owned and provided NHS.

‘This requires a trial of strength with the involvement of all the unions and the TUC. If the government does not give way and continues to attack state provided healthcare and education, and other public services, then it should go.’

l NHS managers in London have signed a deal with a group of private companies and commissioning ‘experts’ to provide support to the first wave of pathfinder GP consortia.

NHS London has awarded a contract to the KPMG Partnership for Commissioning to support the development of pathfinders across the capital.

The partnership sees KPMG teaming up with UnitedHealth UK, the National Association of Primary Care, Healthskills, NHS Primary Care Commissioning and legal firm Morgan Cole.