Eight out of 10 doctors are concerned about private companies profiting from the NHS, according to an online poll commissioned by the British Medical Association (BMA) and carried out by Doctors.net.uk.
Doctors.net.uk members were asked: "The BMA's 'Look after our NHS' campaign is concerned that some large multinational companies are making profits out of running local clinical services on behalf of the NHS. To what extent do you agree with the campaign's concerns?"
There were 697 responses, with 80% saying they either strongly agreed (51%) or agreed (29%) with the statement. Just 7% said they either disagreed (4%) or strongly disagreed (3%).
Today (Wednesday 23 December), the BMA has also published a paper listing reports of public money being wasted as a result of market-driven reforms.
Examples include an estimate that as much as £1.54bn might have been overpaid to independent sector treatment centres in England, and figures showing that the NHS in England spent around £350m on private management consultants in the last financial year.
Comments from Doctors.net.uk's members included: "The process of outsourcing previously public services to private industry often works very badly – witness the railways, London Underground, private prisons. Its application to the NHS is a major threat to the public health."
Dr Hamish Meldrum (pictured), Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: "This is more evidence of the medical profession's concerns about commercial values being imposed on the NHS.
"There are countless examples of taxpayers' money being wasted because of the drive for services to be provided by profit-making companies rather than traditional NHS providers. When politicians talk about cutting waste they should consider the fact that the bureaucratic costs of a market are hitting the taxpayer hard.
"We'd like to see the NHS in England restored to a publicly provided, publicly funded service, driven by the needs of patients, not shareholders."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Dr Meldrum is reiterating what is a growing concern of those of us who work in the first contact arena. The government's obsession with targets and giving everyone everything they want - rather than need - at any time of the day or night in as short a time as possible is depleting the NHS of dwindling resources that would be more effectively used in other areas, such as elderly care, social care, Alzheimer's treatment, etc, which is a growing problem. Whereas 10 years ago we had a well functioning out of hours service, which was by and large used by the public for urgent and emergency care only, is now used as a convenient pop in clinic for long-term, non-urgent and very minor problems. Traditionally quiet times such as Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day afternoon have been used as a convenience for the public for such things as 'just' checking their ears for wax, a non-specific 3-month old cluster of spots on an upper arm, a lingering cough in an otherwise well patient, and general primary care advice that could easily be extracted from NHSD website. There is an attitude out there fostered by the government that the NHS is a provider no different from the local supermarket or insurance brokers that should provide 100% of health 100% of the time" - Name and address supplied
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