‘RESIST CUTS & PRIVATISATION!’ Decides BMA conference in Edinburgh

Delegates applaud one of the major speeches at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting
Delegates applaud one of the major speeches at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting

DOCTORS at the BMA conference (ARM) yesterday voted for Motion 293 from the London Regional Council ‘to resist cuts and the privatisation of the NHS’.

The Resolution added: ‘That this Meeting notes that the NHS is under immense strain as it strives to make unprecedented “efficiency savings” of £20 billion and that NHS cuts affect all sections of society especially the most vulnerable.’

Mover Dr Jackie Applebee said: ‘At my own trust, Barts, 650 frontline jobs have been lost.’

She added: ‘A&Es are being closed, the Francis Report showed that cuts led to deaths, thousands turned out for the defend the NHS march in London on 18th May.

‘We have to challenge the cuts.’

Conference voted against the bullying of staff and secrecy by NHS managers and the government in the light of the Francis Report.

These sentiments were contained in Motion 278 which also calls for ‘funding and staffing levels sufficient to assure high quality, safe care’.

Mover, BMA Council member Dr Peter Holden, said that managers were now in charge of the NHS and that most of them had come in ‘without any instinctive institutional corporate code of professional ethics and behaviour, backed up by a formal, professional disciplinary and registration regime’.

He continued: ‘Pour into that mix, bullying senior colleagues, commercial imperative, political vanity, pay-related financial performance and then flavour it with local control of consultant contracts, gagging clauses and operate in a culture of secrecy and covert bullying.

‘The result is the perfect toxic professional working environment for this explosive mixture which did so much harm to patients.’

This was a reference to the over 1,000 patients who died needlessly at Stafford Hospital because the Mid-Staffs Trust made savage cuts and sacked over 160 staff in its bid to become a foundation trust.

Dr Holden went on to say: ‘We, the medical profession, must demonstrate leadership by taking back control of the health service from managerialism and managers so that it can be operated in the best interests of patients.’

Motion 295, moved by Mrs Anna Athow, stated: ‘That this Meeting notes the government has allocated £300 million to pay for ‘failure regimes’ all over England to close 20 to 60 District General Hospitals.

‘This Meeting calls on BMA Council to condemn the use of “failure regimes” to wipe-out NHS hospitals.’

Athow told the conference: ‘The legal basis for these regimes was established in the 2006 Health Act.

‘Following this David Nicholson and Lord Darzai promoted the conception that all that was needed was a few acute major hospitals with catchment areas of up to one million.

‘So began the government war on the DGHs and the stripping of their A&Es, Maternity Units and Paediatrics Departments.

‘After the election the Tory Coalition enthusiastically continued this plan.

‘So far more than 32 DGHs have been run down or closed, with ongoing huge reconfigurations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

‘In his last act as Health Minister, Andrew Lansley imposed the Unsustainable Provider Regime on South London Healthcare trust, on the excuse of its PFI debts.

‘The Unsustainable Provider Regime has proved a very rapid and powerful weapon. In six short months it was set up, consulted on, passed to Jeremy Hunt and rubber stamped by him.

‘The £2 million report of McKinseys and Deloitte assumed the right to reconfigure the whole of South East London’s healthcare.

‘At the centre of this plan is the closure of Lewisham Hospital with the loss of A&E, Maternity, Acute Surgery, Paediatrics and Intensive Care.

‘£70 million of savings are to come from the redundandancies of clinical staff and the imposition of seven-day working.

‘As for consultation, the GPs, hospital staff, and the local clinical commissioning group opposed the plans, as did 35,000 members of the public who showed their views through marching through the streets.

‘But the government is pressing on.’

She concluded: ‘Our union must oppose the hospital closures and defend our jobs through industrial action and occupations to keep our District General Hospitals open.’

In the debate Dr Louise Irvine, from Lewisham, said: ‘The unsustainable provider regime is dangerous. It provides a rapid way to close hospitals without any proper checks.

‘It is a bad piece of legislation and we are taking Jeremy Hunt to court next week for judicial review.’

The motion was carried with just one vote against.

The ARM went on to vote for Motion 296, opposing the Private Finance Inititiative and calling on the government to ‘directly fund new NHS capital projects’ and ‘renegotiate PFI contracts’ and to enable ‘existing PFI schemes to be bought out by the NHS’.

The ARM was suspended for the BMA AGM to take place.

A motion to introduce a gagging clause for BMA Council members was withdrawn and a challenge to using PriceWaterhouseCoopers as the BMA external auditors because of their involvement in privatisation of trusts, from Dr Gee Yen Shin, was narrowly lost.