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Monday, 29 June 2009

Kicking off the ARM with a call to "Look after our NHS"

Day one of this year’s ARM in Liverpool began with BMA UK Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum’s key address to delegates. The hall’s packed with around 500 doctors from all over the UK.

In his speech Dr Meldrum called on the Westminster Government to “end this ludicrous, divisive and expensive experiment of the market in healthcare in England.” He urged doctors to sign up to the BMA’s “Look After Our NHS” campaign which is gathering examples of how the market is impacting on the NHS. To much hand-clapping, he said there was never a better time to abandon market reforms in England.

In Wales, thankfully we have a Government in the Assembly that has rejected the internal market in healthcare and the commercialisation of the NHS. This has been continued, rightly so, in the recent reform programme.

As I listen to doctors from England who tell me their priority and loyalty to patients and patient care is being compromised by the need to meet tough and arbitrary financial targets, I am grateful to be a doctor living and working in Wales.

The NHS is facing some of the biggest and most serious challenges ever, as we move from a period of sustained growth in resources to one of, at best, stagnation in funding, and at worst, stringency, hardship and even cuts, in our health service.

Although the NHS in Wales has its own challenges, the concerns that I have listened to so far from doctors practicing in England go against the core principles of our health service. The Welsh Assembly Government certainly face serious challenges and criticisms in other areas, but rejecting commercialisation in our NHS is one very important thing that they have got right. Our NHS is and has to remain – Publically Funded, Publically Provided and Publically Accountable.

I will leave you with a quote from Dr Meldum’s address:

“We need to do everything possible to protect the healthcare budget and not concede that swingeing cuts are either inevitable or necessary… The profession is ready to work with whichever governments are in power, to look at the hard choices, to make the tough decisions on the basis of evidence, fairness, equity and trust … We need a whole-system and across-government approach to improve the health of the public, with every citizen involved …Only that way will we slow the inexorable rise in pressure on our National Illness Service and cope with the financial and clinical challenges that lie ahead.”

Watch this space, there’s plenty more ARM coverage to follow...

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