RESPONDING TO PROPOSALS for NHS reform in England, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said: “While the BMA supports greater collaboration within the NHS, our members and their colleagues need a real chance to assess these plans and their implications.

On the back of a year in which doctors have gone above and beyond in responding to the greatest health crisis in a generation, they are now both physically and emotionally exhausted.

“Proposals for sweeping reorganisation on such a scale will need greater time for consideration and must not be rushed through while doctors are still tackling the winter surge in infections, hospitalisations and tragically, deaths.

“The immediate and forthcoming challenge for the NHS will be addressing the greatest backlog of care our health service has ever faced, alongside the continued pressures of Covid-19. This requires significant new resources and an immediate action plan, rather than risk being diverted by a reorganisation of the health service in the midst of the pandemic.

“Since 2012, the BMA has campaigned against wasteful and bureaucratic NHS procurement rules that require all contracts to be put out to competitive tender. While the White Paper proposes ending these competition rules, the BMA has previously expressed concerns that this could lead to awarding contracts without sufficient scrutiny to outsourced providers at huge expense to the taxpayer.

“We have seen the devastating impact of this happening during the pandemic with both PPE and ‘NHS’ Test and Trace. In contrast, where the NHS and clinicians were given the chance to lead, as in the vaccine programme, we have achieved far better progress, demonstrating why the BMA believes that the NHS should always be the preferred provider for NHS services. This is an opportunity to roll back on the expensive and inefficient use of the private sector, not increase it.

“Since its inception the NHS has been subject to countless restructures, and the BMA will be interrogating these latest proposals in detail to ensure that they are informed by the expertise of doctors, and deliver real change that secures a better deal for staff and quality care for patients.”

Also commenting, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, said: “We are inching closer to getting ministers to take responsibility for ensuring safe and effective care with enough nursing staff. But these proposals are only worthwhile if the UK Government makes this issue a priority and matches that with investment.

“For years, nursing staff have been kept waiting with the promise of a workforce strategy from ministers and the NHS. The absence of one left health and care services tens of thousands of nurses short when facing a pandemic. This workforce strategy must be produced without delay, with legal teeth, to demonstrate a clear commitment to investing in the people who make patient care safe.

“New NHS structures will need to include senior nurses bringing their expertise and leadership and our members will want that reassurance when the detail is published. Politicians have to be accountable for the NHS but nobody wants that to mean political interference.”

* Source: British Medical Association