25/10/2011

BMA Urges Lords To Amend Health Bill

The British Medical Association has published further changes to the Health and Social Care Bill as it urges the Lord's Committee Stage to make last minute "mitigating" changes.

In a briefing paper published by the BMA on Tuesday, the doctor's union outlined a number of areas of "continuing concern" including the need for the Secretary of State to retain ultimate responsibility for the health services, which is in doubt under the proposed legislation.

The BMA is also opposed the introduction of "competition and cherry-picking" contained in the bill. The BMA said it wants to see an amendment making it "explicit" that increasing patient choice will not be given greater priority than ensuring fair access for all. There are concerns among doctors that preferential treatment will in future be given to patients that can pay for it.

The union said it also wants to see further safeguards so providers cannot choose to provide only more profitable services.

Among other concerns for the union are the introduction of "incentives for commissioning", which could have conflicts of interest by linking financial incentives to the performance of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Commenting on the briefing paper, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, said: “The BMA’s preferred option is for the Health and Social Care Bill to be withdrawn. However, during this stage of the parliamentary process, there is scope for further significant change to be made, so we have today set out the areas where we believe there still need to be amendments.

"We hope the Lords will agree with us and change the proposed legislation, limiting the damage this Bill could do to the NHS."

Dr Meldrum added that because so much of the detail won’t appear on the face of the Bill and will instead be left to secondary legislation and guidance, it was essential to have "firm assurances" about the government’s implementation plans: "For example, we continue to have serious concerns about the ethics of the current proposal to incentivise commissioners."

Dr Meldum said that other areas where the BMA is seeking amendments relate to public health; the private patient income cap; the foundation trust failure regime; increasing bureaucracy and complexity, and information and confidentiality.

(DW)

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