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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The frustration of Britain's hospital consultants is growing"
 real 28k

Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Doctors lambast Labour on NHS
Consultants will warn waiting lists are distorting clinical priorities
Consultants will warn waiting lists are distorting clinical priorities
The leader of Britain's hospital doctors has launched a stinging attack on the government's handling of the NHS.

Dr Peter Hawker, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said political pressures had forced doctors to provide sub-standard care.

He said ministers had wrongly focused on waiting lists and that doctors had been forced to meet "spurious targets" rather than concentrate on helping those patients most in need.

Dr Peter Hawker:
Dr Peter Hawker: "Battle between quality and quantity of work"
Speaking at the consultants' annual conference in London, Dr Hawker also accused ministers of launching "groundless" attacks on the medical profession at time of increasing workload and severe staff shortages.

He warned that doctors were becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned. They were particularly angry at plans to restrict their private work.

Many hospital consultants have been angered over the past year by plans to ban newly-qualified colleagues from private practice for their first seven years.

The government is offering compensation to these doctors for lost earnings, and hopes that keeping them entirely within the NHS will improve services there.

Rush patients

Dr Hawker told the conference: "We are pressurised to rush through patient numbers, to hit politically-inspired targets, to provide politicians with soundbite headlines with targets reached.


Would we be satisfied for our families to receive the care that we are often forced to provide? We would have to answer no

Dr Peter Hawker
"Fearing the retribution of the Department of Health if spurious targets are not met - that's no way to work.

"If we ask ourselves, would we be satisfied for our families to receive the care that we are often forced to provide, we would have to answer no."

Dr Hawker said that the government should work with doctors, not against them.

"Do not underestimate the frustration and anger felt by the thousands of hospital senior staff who day in, day out, are providing the care to the people of this country, knowing our ability to provide a quality service is being impaired.

"There was a promise of change, relief from a failing system.

"That promise has not yet been fulfilled. The NHS is not the envy of the world, but I believe the quality of our medical staff, nurses and other staff could make it the envy of the world.

"There is much to do, much to change and much that is wrong."

'Distant utopia'

Mr Mike Davidson, a consultant maxillo-facial surgeon at Taunton and Somerset Hospital, told the conference that politicians' view of the NHS was a "distant utopia".

He said his hospital, built in 1944, was so run down that staff had to use buckets to collect rain water in clinical areas.

One junior doctor at the hospital had been left to look after 200 patients over a weekend. The recommended number is no more than 50.

Mr Davidson said: "The standards in my trust are no different to those in the rest of the country."

Dr Alan Russell, a consultant gynaecologist at Fairfield General Hospital, Lancashire, told how he had been forced to treat non-urgent cases at the expense of those needing hysterectomies simply to get waiting lists down.

He said pressure had been put on him to increase throughput to offset long delays in the orthopaedic department.

The consultants passed a motion of no-confidence in the proposed reforms of the doctors' regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC).

They called for an independent body to oversee reform.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Health
Ban on consultants' private work
18 Dec 00 | Health
How hospital doctors are paid
18 Oct 00 | Health
Consultants to get pay bonus
16 Aug 00 | Health
Consultants 'reject NHS Plan'
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