'High risk' health reforms warning
The Government has described as "disappointing" a call by the British Medical Association (BMA) for it to withdraw or significantly amend its health reforms, which posed an "unacceptably high risk to the NHS".
BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said there was an "inappropriate and misguided reliance on 'market forces'" to shape services, which could have long-term knock-on effects.
In an letter sent to every MP, Dr Meldrum said: "It is clear that the troubled passage of the Health and Social Care Bill reflects real concern over the future direction of the health service in England."
He said the BMA acknowledged government efforts to address concerns about the bill, but added: "However, we still believe that the Government's reform plans pose an unacceptably high risk to the NHS, threatening its ability to operate effectively and equitably, now and in the future."
The letter said widening patient choice to "Any Qualified Provider" (AQP) across a larger range of services could destabilise local health economies if not carefully managed.
It also said not enough thought had been given to the "unintended knock-on effects and long-term consequences" of proposals in the bill.
The letter said focus on the changes from the reforms was creating a "noticeable distraction" from efforts to improve the quality of patient care at a time when the NHS was working to save £20 billion in efficiency savings.
It said: "The risks are high, not least because the long-term effects of the legislation are likely to be extensive. Meaningful, sustainable reform needs to have the full confidence of patients and those working in the health service."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The BMA's campaign is disappointing because as the doctors' union they previously said they were pleased that the Government has accepted the Future Forum's core recommendations, and that there will be significant revisions to the Health and Social Care Bill.
"We will never privatise the NHS and patients will never have to pay for NHS care. Our plans have been greatly strengthened in order to safeguard the future of the NHS."