Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UK: Health Bill amounts to 'abolition' of NHS, academic warns

Controversial Government reforms will spell the end of the NHS as it stands, academics warn, as the Health Secretary was forced to reassure MPs that hospitals and doctors would not face accusations of running cartels.

A new paper claims the Health and Social Care Bill will create a free market for private companies in which the NHS becomes an American-style system rather than providing treatment.

Even GPs could profit from the new system by rationing services, it is claimed.

Amid widespread fears that doctors and hospitals could be accused of anti-competitive practices if they deny business to private healthcare firms, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, agreed to set out the limits of economic regulation under the reforms.

It comes as opposition grows to the Government’s unprecedented reorganisation of the NHS, which will abolish two tiers of management and hand control of buying hospital treatment to new GP-led organisations.

The powerful doctors’ lobby, the British Medical Association, has called on ministers to withdraw the bill while backbench opponents now include a Tory MP and former GP, Sarah Wollaston, who has said key parts of the reforms are “doomed to fail” and risk changing the NHS “beyond recognition”.

In the latest attack, Prof Allyson Pollock, from the Barts and The London School of Medicine, and David Price, senior research fellow at its Centre for Health Sciences, write in a paper published on BMJ.com that the legislation “amounts to the abolition of the English NHS as a universal, comprehensive, publicly accountable, tax funded service, free at the point of delivery”. (read more)