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Is the NHS becoming the ‘Prime Minister’s biggest broken promise’?

In her first blog, NHiS’s Hannah Boylin looks at the BMA’s recent protests against the Health and Social care Bill.

According to some, yes. In a heated debate in the commons last week, shadow health secretary John Healey called Andrew Lansley a “man in denial” and claimed what “the government is doing to the NHS is making things worse not better for patients”.

Now we know that things can often get a little heated in the commons, but in reality, this is an anxiety that is being echoed up and down the country and demonstrates many underlying concerns for the way the NHS reforms are taking shape.

This was voiced most obviously, of course, in the BMA’s Special Representatives Meeting (SRM) that was held this week amidst calls for the Health Bill to be completely withdrawn. In his keynote speech BMA chair, Dr Hamish Meldrum, vehemently stated: “I do not support this bill; the BMA does not support this bill; the profession […] does not support this bill”.

Despite this, however, the motion to remove the Bill in its entirety was not passed, with 44% in favour and 54% opposing. Further, a vote of no confidence in Andrew Lansley was rejected – albeit narrowly – with 56% rejecting the call, 39% in favour of it and 5% abstaining.

It is apparent from these ‘close-call’ figures, however, that the profession remains divided over the reforms: a division that could yet have implications for the Health Bill. The BMA has already claimed one victory in the removal of the reference to the tariff being the ‘maximum’ price; a clause that would have allowed price competition and differential pricing between the NHS and private providers.

Is it therefore possible that further boycotting of specific elements could pave the way for more amendments? There is certainly much of which the profession disapproves; the Any Willing Provider (AWP) policy, for example, is one that has been met with much distaste and has been countered by calls to make the NHS the single, preferred provider. In this current trend of opposition then, could AWP be the next thing to be nudged out of the Bill?

At this stage, it is difficult to say how things will pan out as, contrary to the BMA’s uproar, the reforms appear to be ploughing full steam ahead. The third wave of pathfinder consortia have been in place for a few weeks and membership of consortia has hit 100% in some areas of the country. And, as the DH has (rightly) pointed out in response to the SRM, the “reality is over 5,000 GP practices, covering two thirds of the country, have already signed up and have started to implement plans to give patients better care”.

The figures here are undeniable, as is the shift that has already been made towards a GP commissioning model. And so it begs the question: were the BMA’s efforts this week futile or simply too little, too late?


Hannah Boylin is Editor & PR Manager at NHiS.

NHiS provides healthcare organisations with insight based solutions, to assist engagement with NHS customers and to ensure patient and commercial outcomes are optimised.

Contact the author: hannah.boylin@nhis.info

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