UK: criticism of the coalition government’s controversial White Paper “Liberating the NHS”

PRESS RELEASE: Friday October 1, Immediate

BMA right to slam Lansley’s “deeply flawed” White Paper

Pro-NHS pressure group Heath Emergency today welcomed the shift of position by the BMA to open criticism of the coalition government’s controversial White Paper “Liberating the NHS”.

Health Emergency Director Dr John Lister published a widely publicised open letter to BMA Chair Hamish Meldrum early in August, warning that the doctors’ union could be making a “historic mistake” if it lent any support to Andrew Lansley’s proposals. He now says doctors are now right to have recognised some of the real dangers at the heart of the White Paper.

Among Mr Lansley’s proposals:

· GPs would take over the commissioning of £80 billion or more of services in England: the existing structure of local Primary Care Trusts and regional Strategic Health Authorities would be scrapped. And while some GPs have welcomed the potential influence they might gain from this, a growing number have recognised that they would first and foremost become responsible for carrying through £20 billion of “efficiency savings” which will require many unpopular cutbacks and closures by 2014.

· In addition GPs would either have to spend more time in bureaucratic meetings and administration – leaving less time to care for patients – or employ teams of managers or management consultants to take on this role, effectively creating a new NHS bureaucracy.

· The plan to replace 150 PCTs with 500-600 “consortiums” of GPs opens up the danger of a new “postcode lottery” in which patients in one area get less or greater access to services than their neighbours in another. And GPs in deprived areas are likely to find their concerns and their patients’ needs brushed aside as larger, better-resourced GP practices from more prosperous areas take control of consortia.

· To make matters worse, the drive towards privatisation would be accelerated, with plans to offer NHS contracts for patient care to bids from  “any willing provider” – whether for-profit or a non-profit “social enterprise”.

· And in another twist of privatisation, all existing NHS Trusts also obliged to become Foundation Trusts, while the law would be changed, lifting the present restrictions to allow Foundation Trusts to raise as much income as they wish from private patients: with their NHS funding frozen or falling, this means many top Foundation Trusts would focus their energies on attracting wealthy paying patients from home and abroad, rather than on NHS patients. NHS patients would become second class citizens.

Commenting on the BMA’s official response, which argues that the White Paper could undermine the “stability and future” of the NHS, Health Emergency’s John Lister said:

“The shift of stance by the BMA makes it clear that more and more GPs as well as hospital doctors are waking up to the many fundamental flaws at the very heart of this White Paper.

“Many are realising that with £20 billion of cuts to carry through they would not be “liberated” to commission better for their patients, but would instead be trapped in the role of rationing boards, deciding which patients to exclude from care, and which services to axe.

“The BMA’s critical stance now lines them up more closely with the TUC health unions, which have unanimously rejected the White Paper.

“But it’s not enough just to criticise Lansley’s proposals, which are driven by ideology rather than any evidence. It’s clear that this government takes no notice of criticism, and the so-called “consultation” is a sham. If the plans are as bad as the BMA now argues, there must be an active campaign to ensure they are dropped.

“There is no sign anywhere of significant public support for these proposals, which were revealed in July and have been largely ignored by the media over the summer. Wherever people hear of the full content of the proposals they are angry and opposed to them.

“The government has no mandate for these proposals. Both the Tories and LibDems deliberately opted NOT to put these ideas to the electorate in June – because they know full well that if they had, they would have been rejected.

“A combined campaign by all those who reject this commercialisation and privatisation of health care could now push the issue into the front line of political debate, and force the ConDem coalition to back off.”

FURTHER INFORMATION and analysis of Lansley’s White Paper, including a tabloid newspaper, is available at <> .

·  Dr John Lister can be contacted on 07774 264112, or

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