Patient Rights Bill 'Little More Than Political Rhetoric', Warns BMA Scotland

The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland today called on politicians to reject the Patient Rights Bill claiming that the legislation was more about political rhetoric than patient care.

The Bill, which would introduce a 12-week treatment time guarantee for patients, does not include any rights to redress, meaning nothing in the legislation will be enforceable. The BMA argues that this renders the bill meaningless.

Dr Charles Saunders, Deputy Chairman of BMA Scotland, said: “On paper it would seem obvious why politicians and the public might find the patient rights bill appealing. But the introduction of a treatment time guarantee will have serious and negative consequences for patients and the health service. This bill is more about political rhetoric than patient rights and our patients deserve better.

“An integral aspect of the doctor’s role is to be an advocate for our patients, providing advice and support to navigate treatment options and services. For every patient, there will be different and often unique need and we are concerned that this new target, enshrined in law, will create an inflexible system that forces doctors to rush patients into treatment without consideration of the particular needs of the patient.


Dr Saunders added: “In order to achieve the new 12-week treatment time targets the bill will require that patients be sent to hospitals often miles away, instead of waiting to be seen closer to home at a local hospital or peripheral clinic. In many cases, patients would be happy to wait for local care - albeit outwith their guarantee times - where they will be in a familiar environment and where their friends and family can support them. But health boards will be required by law to achieve the target, so will patients really have a choice?


The Deputy Chairman also highlighted the significant amount of administrative time used and the stress generated by trying to reach the current, non-clinically driven targets. The bill is said to increase the levels of bureaucracy with cost implications.

Dr Saunders continued: “Politicians must see past this political rhetoric and consider whether or not this bill will actually improve the lot of patients in our NHS. If the Parliament wants to clarify patients’ rights, the creation of a Patient Charter, which would not need primary legislation, would be a simpler alternative to this bill.”


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