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BMA Conference Monday, 1 July, 2002, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Politicians 'trample over' patient privacy
Politicians should stop using patients and the NHS for cheap point-scoring, says a leading doctor.

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said politicians were playing "politics with people's lives".

He highlighted the case of Rose Addis, the pensioner whose care hit the headlines earlier this year.


Our patients have been the victims of the politicisation of the NHS

Dr Ian Bogle
He said her privacy and dignity were "trampled over for the sake of some party political point scoring."

However, his remarks were described as "ill-advised" by one Conservative MP.

Dr Bogle said: "We have witnessed the damage wreaked by the politicisation of the NHS.

"We have been victims of the politicisation of the NHS. Our patients have been the victims of the politicisation of the NHS.

He warned the NHS had become "the Punch and Judy show of British politics".

"Today, I am calling on government and opposition to bring down the curtain on the party political puppet show and try and reach an all-party consensus on how the NHS is managed."

Dr Bogle said doctors would not be "pawns in political games".

"Doctors won't be the dog the government kicks when things don't quite go according to plan."

He added: "Make no mistake. We will bite, and we will bite hard and where it hurts, if that's what it takes to make the government understand that it cannot use the NHS, those people who work in it and those people who need it, as political playthings."

Off target

He also warned that doctors were fed up with being constantly set targets.

Dr Bogle told the BMA's annual conference in Harrogate: "Doctors are not working on a production line.


We must deliver with this money. The consequences if we don't don't bear thinking about

Dr Ian Bogle
"Do we want this new money to help us deliver a sausage factory service based on productivity targets, which ignore the needs of individuals and the importance of time with patients?

"Or do we want it to help us deliver a quality service that is truly patient-focused and patient-centred?"

He said the investment in the NHS announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in March's Budget was a "defining moment for the NHS - and the government itself".

But he added the extra investment had to be used wisely, to pay for more doctors, more nurses and more capacity for the NHS.

"We must deliver with this money. The consequences if we don't don't bear thinking about."

Doctor holds x-ray
Patient details should be confidential
The association is drawing up new guidelines for how it believes politicians should act when they want to raise a patients' case in public.

Doctors fear many politicians currently do not feel bound by the confidentiality rules applied by the medical profession.


A number of constituents will specifically ask their MP to publicise their problems or to raise them with ministers on the floor of the House and that is our duty

Andrew Mackay MP
Healthcare has proved one of the dominant themes in UK politics since last summer's general election.

There was a furore when Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith used prime ministers' questions to take up complaints over how pensioner Rose Addis was treated in a London hospital.

'Central dictat'

That sparked anger among some doctors and nurses, although Mr Duncan Smith said he was right to help his constituents raise concerns.

Dr Bogle's attack, in his last conference as head of the BMA, is directed at MPs of all parties.

Conservative MP Andrew Mackay hit back, however, saying: "MPs are elected to represent the interests of their constituents and whilst it is clearly wrong to use patients as political footballs or publicise their cases without their consent, a number of constituents will specifically ask their MP to publicise their problems or to raise them with ministers on the floor of the House and that is our duty.

"I think Dr Bogle has been singularly ill-advised with his remarks".

However, Dr Evan Harris MP, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, endorsed the call.

He said: "In the Rose Addis case it was never clear that either the Conservatives or Labour had the explicit permission of Mrs Addis herself when they raised her case publically.

"The permission of relatives in such cases is not sufficient, and breaching medical confidentiality is a serious matter."

Dr Steve Gillam, of health think tank The Kings Fund backed the BMA call.

"This is part of a bigger broader problem which is how to depoliticise the NHS and draw ministers away from day to day running of the NHS," he told BBC News.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matthew Hill
"Doctors hope that Whitehall will reduce its stranglehold on the way they operate"
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30 Jan 02 | UK Politics
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