NHS reform 'complete waste' warning

Doctor's equipment, a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope Dr Michael Dixon said he feared GPs "will walk" from the clinical commissioning process

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Opening most of the NHS in England to private firms could alienate doctors and render the reforms "a complete waste of time", a GP who helped draft the plans has warned.

Dr Michael Dixon told GPs' journal Pulse that he feared GPs "will walk".

He says the legislation's wording on competition must be amended or doctors could get "bogged down" in the process and distracted from patient care.

The government insisted there was no policy to privatise NHS services.

Budget responsibility

The balance of power is about to shift dramatically within the NHS, with GPs and other clinicians given much more responsibility for spending most of the budget in England.

There is already competition for services such as physiotherapy, hearing tests and dermatology - which could be expanded to many other areas of care. Essential services such as A&E would be protected.

But the issue of involving the private sector to introduce competition for services was vehemently opposed by some critics within the medical profession when the changes were drawn up.

Ministers responded by agreeing to introduce competition in a more managed and balanced way. However, there is fresh concern that legislation about to go through the House of Lords will force nearly every service to be put out to tender. Critics have said this is a blueprint for privatisation and goes against government assurances.

Dr Dixon, who heads the NHS Alliance - an organisation which represents doctors, nurses and managers on the front line - said the danger with the current wording of the rules was "that it seems to put a duty upon the commissioner to go for competition with all contracts that are made".

He warned that doctors would "start getting bogged down" in dealing with competition and would end up taking their "eye off the ball".

He told the BBC that getting the right level of competition was vital: "It means not having to introduce competition willy nilly - but using it when it's in the interests of patients.

"I don't want tenders, which cost a lot of money and time, when a local provider is doing a good job.

"Sadly, I think this is what one or two of the clauses might lead to."

'Nail in coffin'

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 doctors have written to the Daily Telegraph claiming the legislation makes "virtually every part" of the NHS open to private firms.

They wrote: "We are concerned about the government's proposed secondary legislation (under Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act) to force virtually every part of the English NHS to be opened up to the private sector to bid for its contracts.

"These regulations were proposed on 13 February and will become law on 1 April unless MPs first insist on a debate and then vote them down.

"Parliament does not normally debate or vote on this type of regulation, but it is possible. We urge parliamentarians to force a debate and vote on this issue to prevent another nail in the coffin of a publicly provided NHS free from the motive of corporate profit."

The government said the rules were about ensuring the process was fair to all concerned.

Sources close to Jeremy Hunt said he was aware of the concerns but was "confident" the regulations were in keeping with the promises made.

It is understood that ministers will be writing to peers who will be addressing this issue next week to "allay fears". There is also consideration being given to rewording parts of the regulations.

Labour MP Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, said: "The government needs to start listening and they should start by withdrawing these regulations without delay.

"What is now clear is that the medical professions and Parliament have been treated with contempt - the overnment is now forcing competition through the back door.

"People have never given them the permission to put the NHS up for the sale and they need to be forced to remember that."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    >Peter Barry

    >But it is a fact that UK taxpayers simply their NHS back.

    THe NHS that has killed thousands of people through neglect over the last few years. The sooner we realise that the NHS is not the envy of the world (the third world possibly) the sooner we can improve it to provide the same level of care as other advanced health systems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    To see what happens when you get 'private providers' just look at dentistry, which went down this route years ago. With dentists you have a 'choice' of poor quality rock bottom treatment on the NHS or proper care if you can afford it. What's the A&E equivalent of ' I can pull it out on the NHS or give you a crown for £500? Frightening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Michael Gove put me in mind of Dogbert on this morning's TV news - why do the tories wheel out clowns like Gove ,Frances Fraude and the Fairground Millionaire maker Schappes when disaster strikes....don't they understand the meaning of damage limitation?

    #102 Are you barking?
    Let the German Govt take over - that way we'll know that stakeholders come ahead of backhanders and shareholders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    starrymaz @ 53

    Pay for nurses:
    Starts at £14,153 to maximum of £97,478 (without overtime of course).


  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The tories say that GP's know their patients best. Rubbish. I have not seen mine in 15 yrs

  • Comment number 102.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    "GPs will walk..." Surely that's the idea. It won't be the first time an organisation has been deliberately destroyed by alienation of the workforce - and it's happening as I write.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Oh dear, first the nutters and closet racists beat the tories into third and now the poor sods charged with implementing the fiasco that is Lansley's Privatisation Plan are waving the white flags - wonder if that was on the censored risk register.

    Please god - don't let the tories keep this this train crash of a policy on life support - let it rust in piece - give it a Liverpool style send off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    21 Minutes ago
    ... the NHS is under resourced and needs more money. If we want a better NHS then we need to put more money into it ...."

    Tell me this isn't serious! You are joking, yes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    93. wide awake Why are we frightened about private companies running public services? Do you not live in the UK with its poor Rail service, Greedy utility companies who are ripping us off, water companies who make massive profits but waste water and impose bans despite floods and deluges and private security companies who fail and the need the British army to bail them out. Thats why we are scared

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    This government lied to us all on the run up to the election, and are lying now about not privatizing the N.H.S. Half of the services are already being set up for the private sector. Said it before and say it again. Its the Tory way to privatize everything so don.t believe them in anything they say, they talk with fork tongues,( as the Indians once said).

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Given the poor service provided by most GPs now, and the short hours during which they see patients, I'm extremely uneasy about the idea of giving them any more power than they have already, which is much too much;they already exploit a virtual monopoly to their own advantage and hthe detriment of patients

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Just sell it off to anyone who can manage it. Keep it regulated and enforce the law when health care staff break it.There have been too many deaths, too many cases of patient abuse, none appear to be attracting punishment or even sackings. The NHS , like several other state owned bureaucracies, is out of control and has lost contact with its clients.Step in Richard Branston - you have a job to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Its time to stop this government before the only treatment our elderly and sick will be lucky to get is morphine and sent home to die.

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    84. IanB:
    "As long as the health service is 'free for the patient at the point of delivery', and costs the tax payer no more, why does it matter who employs the service provider's staffs?"

    Most people don't care, it's why they ignore the threat. Many don't want to know what's in their food either, it's why they ended up buying horsemeat. Get a grip, if you don't look around, you get shafted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    1 Hour ago

    Nursing used to be a vocation.

    Now it is a highly paid job for postgrads.

    Suggest you check your facts. Newly qualified staff nurse £16k and that's for working anti social hours and shifts.
    Steelworker £30k for no quals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    In the l950's we had a wonderful NHS, I do know because I was hospitalied for 18 months at that time. The hospitals were not vast factory like buildings that they are now, but pretty big and they were run by just one woman called a MATRON - not a clipboard person in sight. Perhaps our politicians could learn something from history and get rid of all the admin staff who are always in meetings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    This government lied to us all on the run up to the election and they are lying now about not privatizing the N.H.S.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    @60 Mr Right- 1 national manager to do a job not 16 managers and 32 oversight committees, all on 3 x what the nurses earn.
    @52 Wickedly male - I was in BT through their privatisation - poorly done jobs that need to be redone and no requirement to maintain loss leaders like phones on Shetland. Railways now dirty, unreliable, unsafe and still soaking up public money + fares are through the roof


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