Doctors attending the Labour Party conference warned of the increasing difficulties their profession would face under the government’s health reforms.
BMA council member Clive Peedell, speaking in his capacity as co-chair of the NHS Consultants Association, warned that massive efficiency savings were putting pressure on NHS finances and that doctors would be caught in up in the repercussions.
Speaking at a fringe meeting in Manchester yesterday, he predicted that clinical commissioning groups were ‘going to have to become rationing bodies’, and GPs would increasingly have to make the sorts of financial decisions that would affect their relationships with patients.
The Yorkshire consultant oncologist said: ‘Doctors are really in an extremely difficult situation at the moment. We have been asked to put forward reforms that could undermine our profession, damage the doctor-patient relationship and damage the NHS.’
He added that there was the extra complication of uncertainty, with Labour wanting to repeal the act and restore to the health secretary full accountability for the NHS.
And he questioned whether doctors should push forward or try to stop the changes taking place.
Answering the question ‘so what is a doctor to do?’ Dr Peedell said: ‘I think we need to look after the NHS. We can try and minimise the fragmentation of the service, and we need to try to engage with the public to choose the NHS as the preferred provider of care — publicly provided and also publicly accountable.’
At another meeting later that day, Royal College of GPs chair Clare Gerada warned that family doctors would also have to learn to deal with new pressure groups in the wake of the reforms.
She said: ‘GPs are used to pharma … but we are not used to relationships with lobby groups, with charities and with single issues.’
Dr Gerada expressed concerns about going down the ‘my disease is more important than your disease’ route. She said: ‘My worry is that those that talk loudest are going to get more.’