Last updated:

Doctors play down health secretary's keenness on competition

Doctors leaders have said to offer the best NHS care in Europe to an ageing population would require a joined-up approach, not competition.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday, said he wanted Britain to be ‘the best in Europe’ at dealing with dementia by the next election.

He said it was shocking that more than half of dementia cases were undiagnosed, leaving thousands of people without medication.

Mr Hunt praised the ‘extraordinary dedication’ of GPs, doctors and nurses and the superb job done by thousands of frontline NHS staff.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘It is very welcome to hear the new health secretary praise the dedication of doctors and NHS staff.

‘We also agree with him on the massive importance of meeting the challenges posed to the NHS by the ageing population.

‘But elderly care in particular requires a joined-up, collaborative approach. The changes currently being implemented in the NHS in England will generate more competition and more fragmentation.’

Collaborate to progress

Dr Porter added that he hoped Mr Hunt would listen to warnings from doctors leaders that they must be allowed to work collaboratively, not in competition.

Mr Hunt said the reforms launched by former health secretary Andrew Lansley were brave and would make the NHS stronger.

In his speech, Mr Hunt also hit out at Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham for complaining about NHS foundation trusts attempting to break away from national agreements in south-west England via the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium.

‘Guess who was [health] minister when the act enshrining those powers got Royal assent? Andy Burnham,’ Mr Hunt said.

As for Labour party leader Ed Miliband, Mr Hunt added: ‘How totally disingenuous for the man whose government had nine reorganisations of the NHS to criticise us over one — and then announce another when he says he will repeal the Health [and Social Care] Act. Our one nation won’t be fooled by that.’

Sink or swim

Mr Hunt also suggested that hospital and care home managers could be sacked if they lose control of care quality. He said he has asked the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission to examine ways to make managers more accountable.