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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Doctors lash raft of NHS reforms
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter in Manchester

Surgery
Doctors are worried patients will suffer
Doctors have rounded on key NHS reforms, arguing they are damaging patient care.

The British Medical Association conference backed a series of motions attacking flagship policies, such as patient choice and funding methods.

Representatives also called for an independent review into the effect of NHS targets.

In a debate on MRSA, it was suggested all medics wear scrubs instead of the traditional white coat.

We are here to look after patients not managers
Dr Jennie Blackwell

Doctors said the scrubs would be laundered each day and not allowed out of the hospital, preventing contamination with MRSA.

Dr Geoffrey Lewis, from Leicestershire and Rutland, said it was shocking that so many people were dying from hospital-acquired infections and added it was vital doctors took some responsibility.

A BMA poll of more than 2,000 people, published at the weekend, revealed spending on cleaner hospitals was the number one priority for the government.

A&E target

Doctors also argued that the four-hour A&E wait target had meant staff had been bullied into admitting patients into inappropriate wards within the time limit.

People are not interested in choice, they want a good standard of service
Dr Terry John

Dr Jennie Blackwell, a senior house officer, who said she was facing disciplinary action after refusing to bow to pressure to push through patients, said: "We are here to look after patients not managers."

The representatives voted to oppose payment by results, a scheme where hospitals are paid in relation to how many patients they treat.

Family doctor Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the policy was "fundamentally flawed" as it took no account of the quality of treatment and complexity of illness.

Patient choice - from the end of this year people will have a choice of up to five hospitals, including a private healthcare provider, for treatment - was also criticised.

Dr Terry John, a GP from London, said it was the buzz word of the moment within the Department of Health, but a vast number of patients would be unaffected by the initiative. "There is no reference to chronic conditions or acute emergencies.

"People are not interested in choice, they want a good standard of service."

Doctors key

Earlier, BMA chairman James Johnson had urged the government to involve doctors in reforms if patients were going to benefit.

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.

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."


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