The BMA is calling for decisive action from the new Government to tackle NHS pressures and deliver real change for staff, patients and services.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul outlines the association’s priorities and key areas the new Government must address, including:
- Increasing health spending by 4.1% each year.
- Prioritising the workforce – including reform of the punitive pension tax system for doctors.
- Legislating for safe staffing.
- Mitigating the threat that Brexit poses to the NHS.
Read the full letter to Boris Johnson.
Commenting, Dr Nagpaul said:
“Today is Day One for the Government to turn their rhetoric about the NHS delivered on the campaign trail into decisive action that will deliver a health service that’s safe for patients and supportive to staff. We know the NHS is in crisis – hospital bed numbers are at a record low, waiting lists the highest since records began and staff are working in an intolerable climate of stress.
“It’s vital that the Government starts today to make a difference on the frontline – especially as we head into the busiest time of the year. The challenges are huge, which is why the BMA calls upon the Government to act immediately to halt the decline in our NHS.
“For years, the NHS has been underfunded, leading to substandard access to care and a desperately overstretched workforce being pushed to the brink. We’re concerned the Conservative commitment falls short of what we’ve asked for to the tune of £6.2bn per year by 2023/241. The BMA believes the NHS needs an additional 10,000 hospital beds in England alone – we have the second lowest number of acute beds compared with populations in Europe – and without this additional funding, patients will be let down by the services they and their families depend on.
“Pledges to increase workforce numbers underline the dire recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, with 100,000 staff vacancies across the service. The number of full-time GPs has plummeted since a target to increase numbers by 5,000 was set five years ago, so while promises to boost numbers recognise the scale of the problem, politicians must learn from mistakes and broken promises of the past.
“Crucially we must retain experienced and highly-skilled doctors across the board, and the greatest immediate threat to this is punitive pension rules which are forcing doctors to reduce their work or even leave the NHS.
“In their manifesto the Conservatives repeated their commitment to a review of the ‘taper problem’. A review is not enough. We are absolutely clear that the only way to solve the problem is immediate and fundamental taxation reform. This means removing the taper and annual allowance for defined benefit schemes such as the NHS Pension Scheme2, which will work for doctors regardless of whether they are treating families in the NHS, training the next generation of much needed doctors in universities, or supporting our armed forces in the field. Our message to the Government is clear: this must be included in their first Budget, and we are requesting an urgent meeting with the Chancellor to discuss this.
“Brexit will clearly be at the forefront of the new Government’s agenda, and the BMA has warned of the damage that leaving the EU could inflict on the NHS, its staff and patients, especially if this is without a deal. It is vital that the Government takes all possible steps to mitigate the threats that Brexit poses to the health service, the profession and the public’s health.
“As the only association representing all doctors and medical students, we will be looking to work with the Government towards making the NHS a service fit for the 21st century, and ensuring our members’ voices are heard.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- In its Manifesto for Health, the BMA called for annual increases of 4.1% for the NHS budget. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that pledges in the Conservative manifesto equate to an average increase in total health spending of only 3.1% per year between 2019/20 and 2023/24. This will lead to an annual shortfall of £6.2 billion by 2023/24, compared to what the BMA has called for.
- This solution is the same as that outlined by the Government’s own advisory body the Office of Tax Simplification. Find more about the BMA’s work on pensions here.