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NHS could be devastated by economic crisis, doctors warn

28 June 2010

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The NHS could be “devastated” by the economic crisis, with redundancies and cutbacks to patient services expected, according to a group of medical leaders.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the effects of the crisis are already being felt, with frontline services first to feel the pressure.

According to the group, around 40% of doctors questioned said treatments and therapies are being limited due to financial constraints.

And it warned worse is to come, with recruitment freezes and more service cutbacks set to have an impact on the NHS.

The results of the survey of 92 doctors were published on the eve of BMA national conference in Brighton, where NHS finances are expected to dominate proceedings.

Some 72% of the doctors surveyed said their health trust had postponed or cancelled clinical service developments because of financial pressures, while 42% said there were limitations on prescribing.

Some 59% (13 out of 22 doctors) said nurses would be affected but 86% (19) mentioned non-clinical staff as being hit by redundancies.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of the 92 doctors in the full survey said there was a freeze on recruitment in their trust.

Of those reporting a freeze, 70% said it included medical posts and 80% said it affected nurses.

Just over half of those reporting no freeze said there were still unfilled vacancies.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA, said: “Even changes to “back-room” functions or administrative processes have consequences for frontline staff who, in many cases, may have to pick up the work themselves; this means less time for patients.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Better patient care can cost less, and doctors have a crucial role to play in improving the quality of care and making the NHS more efficient.

“By empowering doctors, we can secure the high-quality care we need to achieve better outcomes.”

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