Commenting on the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on the Health and Care White Paper, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The committee’s recommendation for ongoing, transparent assessments of workforce shortages and future staffing requirements, as called for by the BMA, is a welcome recognition of the urgent need to address the severe workforce crisis facing health and care services.
'The legislation must be grasped as an opportunity to guarantee to our already understaffed workforce, exhausted from the pandemic, that the Government will take accountability for ensuring staffing levels are safe and provide whatever funding and resourcing this requires.
'We also share the committee’s concern that plans for social care reform must not be delayed and are integral to improving healthcare delivery.
'To truly reform the NHS towards a more collaborative, joined-up system that delivers the best possible patient care, these changes must be accompanied by: long, overdue investment in the NHS; clinical leadership; and robust protection from fragmentation and unnecessary competition, and we would have liked to see this raised by the committee.
'While the report notes that the legislation will remove wasteful rules that require the NHS to put contracts out to competitive tender, as called for by the BMA and others, the BMA believes the report should have gone further and called on the Government to make the NHS the default provider for delivering NHS contracts.
'Without this crucial amendment, there is a risk contracts will be awarded without scrutiny to private providers at huge expense to the taxpayer – as we have seen all too recently with the procurement of personal protective equipment and test and trace during the pandemic.
'The committee highlights the significant concerns raised by the BMA on the impact of rushing through legislative changes at a time when healthcare workers are under unprecedented strain, and calls for local NHS leaders to have a role in setting the pace of implementation to ensure changes do not adversely impact an area’s COVID-19 response or recovery.
'It is critical that clinicians, who know their communities best, are given the chance to lead changes to the benefit of both staff and patients, and this must include formalised roles for primary, secondary and public health doctors at every level of integrated care systems.
'Government must now listen to the committee’s recommendations and our further calls for change. Without these significant amendments, we will miss an opportunity to ensure reform supports the creation of a sustainable, collaborative health and care system in the interest of both healthcare workers and patients.'