The BMA has given qualified support to the publication of a bill seeking to hand back ultimate responsibility for the NHS to the government and tackle privatisation fears.
Doctors said the bill was a positive step towards reversing some of the most damaging aspects of recent NHS reforms, such as the emphasis on competition over integration.
However, the BMA has warned that the National Health Service (amended duties and powers) Bill must not result in more unnecessary, top-down restructuring of the health service.
The bill, which was published as a private member’s bill by Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford last week, seeks to change existing legislation including reversing the powers under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that removed full accountability for the NHS from the health secretary.
'Failure to improve care'
BMA council chair Mark Porter (pictured below) said: ‘This new bill is a positive step towards removing some of the worst elements of the Health and Social Care Act, and nowhere is this more important than in the over-emphasis on competition over integration, and its demonstrable failure to improve patient care.
‘At the same time, we must ensure this legislation does not result in even more political interference in the NHS.
‘We support the bill’s intention to reverse the decision to remove final accountability for the NHS from the health secretary, making it clear that the government must retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of a comprehensive health service.
'NHS England and clinical commissioning groups must, however, have day-to-day operational independence.’
Although the BMA agrees with the bill’s intention to limit competition in the NHS, it is concerned that any safeguards would rest with the health secretary instead of the regulator Monitor.
Political interference risk
Dr Porter added: ‘After years of the NHS being used as a political football we are concerned that the bill expands the health secretary’s powers too far in a number of areas and so care must be taken to ensure that the legislation does not risk introducing even more political interference in the daily running of the NHS.’
The bill also gives discretion to the health secretary to determine the level of income that foundation and other NHS trusts can generate from private patients but the BMA says it is content there are appropriate safeguards.
There are also provisions to limit competition obligations being imposed on the NHS if the transatlantic trade and investment partnership is ratified.
The bill has its second reading next week.
Read the BMA briefing on the bill
The story so far