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Prime Minister must be ‘realistic’ about scale of NHS challenges – BMA responds to Queen’s speech

Responding to the Queen’s speech, delivered today1, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“The Prime Minister has rightly said that the NHS is ‘top priority’ – and he needs to be realistic of the scale of the task at hand. Indeed, last month all major emergency departments were unable to meet the waiting time targets for the first time ever and data released today2 reveal that average bed occupancy is above safe levels and higher than this time last year – underlining the perilous state our health service is in.

“While it’s encouraging to see NHS funding guaranteed in law, the BMA has been clear that the money pledged by the government falls short of what’s needed3 to make up for years of underinvestment and to meet the rising health needs of Britain in the future.

“Crucially, the NHS relies on the people who keep it running and – with 100,000 vacancies in the health service and far fewer doctors comparable to population than our European neighbours – it is vital that the Government supports the workforce and redoubles efforts to recruit and retain staff. For example, an NHS visa system, as confirmed today, is a positive step, but if we are to truly welcome talented international healthcare workers, the financial hurdles of visa fees and the immigration health surcharge must go. It is not right that doctors from overseas are penalised by having to pay to use the very NHS they work in – and that this Government wants to double this fee adds insult to injury. The absurd pension tax legislation needs overhauling if we are to prevent experienced doctors reducing hours or leaving the profession altogether. We’ve got a commitment to a review, but what we really need is an urgent change to legislation – scrapping the taper and annual allowance in defined benefit schemes such as the NHS pension scheme – if we are to fix this problem once and for all.

“Challenges for Britain’s health do not end in GP surgeries or hospitals and the Government needs a credible long-term plan on how to care for people at home and in communities. This in turn, would go some way to free-up capacity and relieve pressure on hospitals and other areas of the NHS. 

“On Brexit, we have been clear on the risks that leaving the EU poses to the health sector. The Government must do all it can to avoid a no-deal situation and mitigate the threats Brexit poses to the NHS, its patients and its workforce.”


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.

  1. Read the Government’s briefing on the speech here.
  2. Latest NHS figures available here.
  3. Read the BMA’s analysis of Conservative policies here.

For further information please contact:

British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
Telephone: 020 7383 6448 
Email: [email protected]
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