BMA delegates voting to defend the NHS at yesterday’s consultants conference in London
BMA delegates voting to defend the NHS at yesterday’s consultants conference in London

‘WE will not let this government privatise the NHS,’ declared British Medical Association Consultants Committee Chairman Jonathan Fielden yesterday.

In his keynote address to the 150 strong BMA consultants conference, Fielden said that on the 60th anniversary of the NHS ‘can we really trust our political leaders to ensure the NHS thrives and remains unconquerable for the next 60 years?’

He added: ‘Our NHS is a massive achievement . . . The NHS still gives the best value for money, equitable, universal healthcare.’

He urged: ‘Ministers, stop wasting money on poor procurement in the private sector and invest more intelligently in the NHS.’

He continued: ‘Independent Sector Treatment Centres wasted millions, money paid for work not done, questionable outcomes, multi-million pound legacy payments. . .

‘PFI – leaving hospitals saddled with long-term, expensive debts and uncertain income, their futures mortgaged for a government whim. . .

‘Commissioning – we don’t need to run to the private sector blinded by the lure of management consultants, the private organisation promising the moon but only after a swift buck. . .

‘And now, they announce they want to send in private management to sort out “failing” NHS trusts.

‘How desperate are they? There is no evidence that private management is any better in the NHS. The last effort in the West Midlands failed.’

He asked: ‘When will they learn that the private sector is after profit not quality?’

He warned that the government is ‘mesmerised by the private sector’, that it is ‘apparently fixated on a drive to allow the private sector to take over the NHS.

‘We will not let this government privatise the NHS,’ he said to applause.

He went on to call on the government to ‘dump the polyclinic plan’.

He warned the government: ‘enforce change against our will and you will see a battle across every GP practice, involving every threatened District General Hospital.’

Conference passed motion 5 condemning the ‘sham consultation’ of the Darzi review.

Mover Dr J.S. Bamrah said: ‘Under Darzi it seems the NHS should be hijacked for the narrow perspective of polyclinics.

‘His proposals would put the NHS into retirement.’

Dr David Wrede moved successful motion 9 that ‘rejects an imposed model of privately-owned polyclinics across the English Health Service’.

He said: ‘This is an expensive and wasteful idea. It is really about political control, giving it to big corporate bodies, and is against the interests of patients.’

In the debate, a clause of the motion proposing ‘that the roll out of polyclinics should be halted until they have been piloted and appraised in line with the advice from the Secretary of State in other areas’ was agreed, after Anna Athow from NE London said polyclinics ‘should be halted immediately, they would not only see the end of general practices but destroy district general hospitals’.

Dr Anne Thorpe won a unanimous vote for her motion, 20, to ‘waste no more money’ on ISTC private treatment centres.

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‘NEW Labour seems on a death wish and is totally out of touch with the needs and wishes of ordinary people in this country.’

This was the reaction of Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary to Health Minister Ben Bradshaw’s announcement on Channel 4 News on Tuesday night that private companies could take over the management of some NHS hospitals and primary care trusts.

Kenny added: ‘In the very week that Bradford and Bingley has nearly gone belly up, the government has the cheek to try to bring private sector dogma to the NHS.

‘The GMB will resist this move with every sinew.’

UNISON did not oppose the introduction of private managers.

Mike Jackson, senior national officer for health for the public service union Unison, commented: ‘We welcome the additional help being offered to failing hospitals who are suffering from complex long-term financial and systemic problems.

However, it is unlikely that private sector managers would have the necessary experience of delivering acute and emergency services to bring long term benefits.

‘It is wrong to suggest that the NHS would be managed more efficiently by the private sector. The NHS has shown that it has the experience and business acumen to do it better with many trusts now in surplus.’