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BMA response to the Health Select Committee’s report on workforce planning

22 March 2007

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Responding today (Thursday 22 March 2007) to the Health Select Committee’s report, Boom and Bust in the NHS, Dr Sam Everington, Deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said:

“While agreeing wholeheartedly that integrated workforce planning must be a priority for the health service, we do not agree that the expansion of the medical workforce was reckless and uncontrolled and that pay increases for doctors have not seen a return in productivity.

“The UK is still critically short of doctors and the BMA has always believed that government goals to increase doctor numbers were too low. Ambitious targets to cut waiting times and improve preventative patient care have only been achieved by increasing the number of health professionals and by doctors delivering on new contracts.

“The 2003 consultant contract has been successful and has already led to considerable improvements in patient care. There are tools within the contract to directly link consultants’ workload to patient activity.

“Published evidence on the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) of the new GP contract shows family doctors have exceeded government expectations. As a result of the QOF, interventions over 8,700 patients in England alone will be saved from potentially life-threatening cardiovascular problems over the next five years. This is a direct result of the new contract, which rewards family doctors who work more intensely to monitor and prevent illness.

“Poorly thought-through and expensive government policies, like independent sector treatment centres [ISTCs], PFI hospital projects, and dismantling general practice, are largely to blame for the current mess the NHS is in, not properly negotiated contracts that aimed to reward both sides and improve patient care.

“It is essential that the government and NHS managers engage with doctors and other health professionals to plan properly for the future, rather than constantly looking for short-term, quick -fix solutions that may serve political ends but do little to develop and expand the NHS.”