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NHS reforms could threaten patient care, BMA warns

Future breakthroughs in patient care are threatened because research and education in the NHS are being sidelined, the BMA says today.

The BMA welcomes measures announced in Monday's review of the NHS in England to create a body to oversee medical education. However, in a new paper today, it says many current NHS reforms take too short-sighted a view, and are jeopardising long-term benefits to patient care from education and research.

For example, it says plans for new models of healthcare delivery, such as polyclinics, have not adequately incorporated education and research, and may not be obliged to provide space where they can take place. Similarly the Private Finance Initiative discourages the provision of library facilities in NHS premises because they are non-profit earning, the paper says.

It points out that medical research contributes to the UK economy by generating income from the development of new treatments, intellectual property, and new drugs.  

Dr Michael Rees, co-chair of the BMA's Medical Academic Staff Committee, says:

"Medical education and research fuel the economy and are fundamental to the success of the NHS. The future of academic medicine in the UK, however, is uncertain. It is threatened by NHS reforms, a declining workforce, and a failure to respond to increasing numbers of medical students.

"If we do not incorporate education and research into our vision of the 21st century health service, it will be to the detriment of the next generation of doctors, to the UK'S position as a world leader in medical research, the UK economy, and ultimately the quality of care that patients receive."