The NHS in England is under threat from government reforms that have introduced a market-based system of healthcare that will have a negative impact on patient services, says the British Medical Association (BMA).
According to the BMA, the use of private money to fund new hospital buildings has resulted in crippling debts for NHS trusts. The medical body also objects to the introduction of competition between NHS providers, including GP surgeries, and arrangements for private companies to run independent sector treatment centres.
Dr Hamish Meldrum (pictured), the BMA's Chairman of Council, said: "A market economy is based on winners and losers. We're not prepared to allow parts of the NHS to fail.
"We want to get rid of the market in healthcare and allow our hospitals and GP surgeries to work together, not be forced to compete against each other for business. Worse still, it leads to unnecessary duplication, encourages gaming and there is no good evidence that it drives up quality."
The BMA is calling on doctors to sign up to a set of key principles that argue for an NHS that is "publicly funded, publicly provided, and publicly accountable".
The BMA says the NHS should use public money for quality healthcare, not profits for shareholders, and put the care of patients before financial targets.
A series of activities is being planned to encourage doctors to speak out about local concerns and to give their views on how the market is affecting patient care in their area. A branded, interactive website, newsletter, campaign pack and publicity at BMA conferences are just some of the activities that will commence in June 2009.
The BMA is publicising its concerns with a new campaign, which includes a new interactive website, Look After Our NHS, launched yesterday (1 June 2009).
"Definitely - the public may think I am biased as I work as a p/nurse in the surgery yet, a little competition would encourage us to work much harder. Yet, they are not always a half-way house." - Name and address supplied