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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 00:49 GMT 01:49 UK
Doctors to condemn NHS policies
By Nick Triggle
BBC News at the BMA conference, Belfast

Image of a GP
GPs say the pace of health service reform is too fast
Doctors are to attack the government's NHS policies at the British Medical Association's (BMA) annual conference which opens on Monday.

Many will call on their trade union to oppose key health service reforms.

Top of the agenda is NHS policy, but doctors are also likely to criticise flu pandemic planning and the drive to improve public health.

One motion being tabled calls on the BMA to join ranks with the anti-private sector group, Keep Our NHS Public.

Keep Our NHS Public is a coalition of MPs, doctors, trade unions and patients set up last year to oppose the involvement of the private sector in the NHS.

The group is against PFI hospitals, companies running GP practices and private clinics providing minor NHS treatment such as cataract surgery - all of which are key parts of the government's plans to create a more patient-centre, market-based NHS.

500m debt

But many doctors believe such policies are destabilising the health service and in some cases taking care away form NHS facilities, which, they say, has in turn helped exacerbate the deficits problem.

It would be a huge step for doctors to say they oppose the reform programme
Alex Nunns
Keep Our NHS Public

The NHS finished last year over 500m in debt, causing hospitals to cut jobs, delay operations and close wards.

Alex Nunns, of Keep Our NHS Public, said: "It would be a huge step for doctors to say they oppose the reform programme."

Conference chairman Dr Michael Wilks said NHS reforms were the "single most important" issue for doctors.

And he added he hoped to have a clear policy stance by the end of the week for the BMA to take into discussions with ministers.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said there was little evidence that bringing in private providers would make the health service more efficient.

"We would want to depoliticise the health service, have more say from those who are at the sharp end, the doctors and nurses, rather than as it is at the moment, appearing to be run by politicians."

Pandemic worries

Delegates will also attack the preparations which have been made to guard against a flu pandemic, branding them inadequate.

Dr Steve Hajioff, a GP from central London, will tell doctors on Tuesday that a flu pandemic could result in "1,000 September 11ths".

I'm a GP and I can prepare my surgery, but if the electricity company that supplies my power has not prepared then I am not going to be able to treat patients
Dr Steve Hajioff

He believes stockpiling antivirals - drugs which can slow the progress of the virus and alleviate symptoms - is less important than getting transport, fuel and water companies to make adequate plans.

"I'm a GP and I can prepare my surgery, but if the electricity company that supplies my power has not prepared then I am not going to be able to treat patients.

"If the telephone company has not done its work then my patients cannot phone in.

"Things like this are even more important in a hospital setting.

"It's the power, the transport, the water companies who need to prepare, but there needs to be contingency plans in every organisation."

Doctors will also attack plans to set up health clinics in supermarkets, pointing out they are responsible for selling and promoting a range of unhealthy products.




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