Thursday 30 June 2011

Beware the Anti Choice BMA

Well, the BMA have shown their true colours. As the doctors' trade union, their recent conference shows how little interest they have in the rights and role of citizens and patients. Their debate on the health bill and the Future Forum reports was a disgrace. They argued against patient choice. One delegate argued that, "competition would simply be rebranded as patient choice".

Their opposition to patient choice demonstrates one of the reasons we need reform. Instead of arguing against patient choice it is time the BMA addressed the problems that have made successive Governments want to introduce more choice in the first place. The battle so many of us have in trying to get a same-day appointment with the doctor. The wild variations in quality of care at different institutions. The difficulty too many still have in seeing their GP at the weekend or evening. The people who need doctors and who aren’t able to get them – travellers and the homeless, for example.

Still, it took a while for the BMA to decide to reverse their opposition to the NHS (above all they were opposed, we should remember, to being nationalised, insisting on being private contractors to the state). Perhaps in a few decades they will get round to the idea of patient and citizen power.

In their opposition to choice, they demonstrate their opposition to the NHS Constitution which guarantees choice. But then it also says "the NHS belongs to the people" and it often seems they don't believe that!

It is time Governments stood up to the bad behaviour of this union instead of indulging them. I trust there will be no attempt to further compromise on competition. Indeed, the behaviour of delegates at their conference shows why we need more diversity of providers. Fortunately not all doctors behave this way. The NHS Alliance for instance is an enlightened and progressive gathering of doctors and others who do believe in patient choice. And the Royal College of GPs do not share this anti diluvian attitude to the people who own the service; us the people!

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