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01-09-2011 | General practice | Article

BMA: Health Bill ‘still too risky’


BMA Briefing document

The BMA has written to MPs calling for the revised Health Bill be withdrawn or at the least reviewed and amended again, saying it still poses an "unacceptably high risk" to the NHS.

BMA Chair Dr Hamish Meldrum writes in the letter that the Bill will threaten the ability of the NHS to operate effectively and equitably. The Bill is due to return for the Report stage and Third Reading before the Commons vote next Wednesday.

The letter highlights the BMA's ongoing concern at the Bill's emphasis on increased competition and reliance on market forces in the NHS. "This is very clear in the general direction of policy travel, such as widening patient choice to 'Any Qualified Provider' across a much larger range of services," it states.

In a briefing document accompanying the letter, the BMA also stresses that the link between the Quality Premium and commissioning performance needs to be made clearer, with any financial incentive kept "entirely separate from GP practice income streams".

And the BMA remains unconvinced by government assurances that lifting Foundation Trusts' private patient income cap will not allow cross-subsidising of care for private patients, saying the incentive to generate private income will lead to a two-tier service and NHS patients losing out.

In an interview in the Guardian today, Dr Meldrum goes further, saying that this will lead to a "philosophy that relies on a market-based health system", like that in the USA.

"There, those who pay or are insured get a better service than those who do not and rely on state-funded Medicare. Until now our system has been built on social solidarity where patients get appropriate treatment in the appropriate time."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price