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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Doctors 'must have say in reform'
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter in Manchester

Doctors want to be involved
Doctors must be involved in NHS reform if changes are to benefit patients, the doctors' union leader says.

British Medical Association chairman James Johnson warned ministers that without getting clinicians on side the government's agenda could fail.

But he also called on doctors to make their voices heard as he opened the BMA's annual conference in Manchester.

The conference is set to debate a range of motions criticising NHS reforms such as targets and patient choice.

Work with us and your reforms will have a much greater degree of acceptance - and they might just work
James Johnson

Mr Johnson said treatment centres, private and NHS units which deal with minor problems, could work if properly planned, but said they needed to be fully integrated with the hospital system and not "cream" the easiest cases.

"Treatment Centres are here and probably here to stay given the cross party consensus on diversity of provision.

"We should take pride in the fact that NHS, not the treatment centres, will continue to pick up the most complex and difficult cases. It is what we do best.

"But if we are going to have a multi-provider NHS then competition must be fair and the playing field levelled out - no more sweetheart deals that disadvantage NHS hospitals and leave patients, primary care trusts and GPs with no choice but to refer their patients to the treatment centre."

Electronic booking

He also highlighted choose and book, the government's planned electronic booking system for hospital appointments, as another area that needed professional input.

"It has been a fiasco so far, because people who do not work with doctors or patients have devised a system which does not begin to understand the basis on which GPs refer and hospitals organise clinics.

"This is just a mini example of the much bigger mess that could be coming our way."

And he added: "My message to the government is simple and clear. Let the professionals help you modernise the NHS to which we are passionately committed.

"Work with us and your reforms will have a much greater degree of acceptance - and they might just work. Without us they cannot work."

He also urged the government to stop the "rape of the poorest countries" by robbing them of their healthcare workers.

He stressed he was not talking of closing doors to overseas colleagues because international exchange and collaboration must continue.

But said the shortage of doctors in the UK had created a vacuum effect in which doctors from the poorest countries ended up working in the UK despite the government's ethical recruitment code.

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