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Alan Johnson’s speech must be followed by action, says BMA

26 September 2007

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The British Medical Association Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, has  commented on the health secretary’s Labour Party congerence speech, saying: “Mr Johnson’s words sounds good but we now have to see if they are followed by action.”

Dr Meldrum (pictured) said: “The health secretary spoke about the need for GP surgeries to be open in places and at times that suit patients. GPs are already working extremely hard to benefit their local populations, and a recent government survey showed that well over eight out of 10 patients were satisfied with access to their practices.

“It is ironic that on one hand Mr Johnson talks about clinical engagement and yet when it comes to GP hours he does not approach the BMA. We are always willing to talk to the health secretary about how the service we provide can be improved but obviously increased opening times and services need considerable resources.”

Also in response to Mr Johnson’s speech, the chief executive of healthcare think tank the King’s Fund, Niall Dickson, said the main issue was not the government’s aims, but their methods of delivery.

Mr Dickson welcomed the speech, saying: “There is no doubt that the government’s priorities of access, equality and hospital cleanliness are also the priorities of patients and their families.

“It is also encouraging that the government accepts the need to tackle the huge challenge of obesity if the health service is to remain affordable and sustainable.

“Alan Johnson’s comments about engaging staff and moving towards local solutions must also be welcomed.”

However, Mr Dickson added: “The danger is that if the government resorts to central diktats, bombarding the service with one new idea after another, it creates a system that is always looking up for its next instruction rather than down into its own affairs.

“It is vital that ministers take this on board, however tempting central control may seem.”


The King’s Fund

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