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BMA Chairman calls for end to market-driven NHS

7 July 2008

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A call to get rid of the market in healthcare came today (7 July 2008) from British Medical Association (BMA) Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum in his keynote speech opening the BMA’s annual conference in Edinburgh.

Speaking to more than 400 UK doctors, Dr Meldrum (pictured) said: “We’ve had the market in England for nearly 20 years. Where’s the evidence that it works?

Dr Meldrum urged doctors to look at the Scottish model of healthcare, which operates without a competitive market among providers. He said that, while devolution had been portrayed as the three Celtic nations breaking away from England, “in the case of the NHS it’s been the other way round: England has broken away from the rest of the UK.”

“The BMA wants to see an NHS untarnished by a market economy, true to its beginnings, giving the public a fair, caring, equitable and cost-effective health service. Not a service run like a shoddy supermarket war,” he said.

“Let’s stop pretending that healing the sick is like trading a commodity. Let’s follow the Celtic lead and get rid of the market in healthcare once and for all. What a pity Ara Darzi missed his golden opportunity to do that.”

Dr Meldrum said that the BMA had come up with a credible alternative to the English system, which would include a system of collaborative commissioning, with doctors from primary and secondary care working together, with patients, to ensure the best use is made of the finite resources of the NHS.

“Politicians in England, including Lord Darzi, may talk about this, but nothing in their policies will deliver it whilst they remain obsessed with the market and with commercialisation of the NHS,” said Dr Meldrum.

He also said “the NHS has had enough of those who ignore the views of those who are best placed to know what will work and what will not. We’re fed up with politicians only listening to those who tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. And simply appointing a friendly, tertiary surgeon as a minister isn’t the answer.”