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NHS proposals 'from cloud nine'

Published 22/06/2015

Jeremy Hunt is leading the drive for a
Jeremy Hunt is leading the drive for a "seven-day-a-week" NHS

Pledges from the Government to expand NHS services have "barely the detail to fill a post-it note", the head of the doctors' union has said.

Dr Mark Porter called on ministers to "get real" as he described the Government as being run from "from cloud nine rather than Number 10".

Dr Porter, the British Medical Association's (BMA) council chair, was speaking as he made the keynote speech at its annual representative meeting in Liverpool, where he said recent promises regarding a "new deal for GPs" are nothing more than "old, repackaged ideas distracting from the central issues".

The crisis currently facing the NHS is real, he said, "but their solutions show little grasp of reality".

He told delegates that during the general election campaign and since the Tories were elected "we've been promised a massive expansion of NHS services".

But he said little detail has been given about how this will actually be carried out.

He also told delegates that measures outlined by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Friday will not solve the problem of a mass shortage of GPs at the same time as the Tories strive to make the NHS a truly seven-days-a-week service.

"They talk about GPs doing even more, when thousands already work in out-of-hours services, propping up the NHS," he said.

Referring to how the Government has promised 5,000 new GPs by 2020, he asked: "How will these new GPs be ready to start work in five years' time when it takes 10 years to train a GP?"

"How are they even going to recruit more GP trainees when hundreds of existing training posts are still unfilled?"

"When will they provide substance over rhetoric and recycled ideas, to focus on the detail of how they will support GPs already burnt-out from overwork, in a service where more than 10,000 GPs are predicted to leave in the next five years?"

Dr Porter said politicians often warn that immigrants are filling up GPs' surgeries and hospitals.

He received a large round of applause as he added: "Well, they are. They're called doctors. And nurses. And porters, and cleaners, and clinical scientists.

"And without them, the NHS would be on its knees."

Dr Porter called on the Government for greater focus on public health issues and a better commitment to NHS staff, along with reductions in targets and red tape for doctors.

"It must begin to see the madness of a market-based system that pits those who care against each other, and put those who profit at its centre," he added.

He warned that the UK has fewer doctors per head than the Czech Republic, Estonia or Hungary and finished 28th out of 30 in a league table of healthcare resources such as staff, beds and medical equipment.

He also renewed calls for a minimum price per unit of alcohol while he pointed out that poor diet is estimated to cost the NHS £6 billion a year.

"Britain's children are amongst the most obese in Europe," he said.

"And yet we see the sugar and fat industries left largely to police themselves."

He said the recently-passed move to introduce standardised cigarette packaging was a "victory" of the Government in standing up to corporations and their lobbyists.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The BMA is out of touch with what patients want.

"People are sick of struggling to get GP appointments that suit their working patterns or family life.

"It's a shame that Mark Porter doesn't acknowledge that thousands of innovative doctors have already embraced our shared vision of seven-day access to primary care.

"On Friday, the Health Secretary clearly set out how we will deliver our commitment of 5,000 more GPs over the next five years.

"We're giving the £8 billion needed to deliver the NHS's own plan for the future - this plan sees more investment in primary care, so this is the biggest opportunity for new investment in general practice in a generation.

"The BMA should tone down this rhetoric and help us encourage more trainee doctors to join general practice.

"Clinicians and senior leaders across the NHS support the principal of seven-day working and it is a real shame that the BMA is reluctant to move with the times."

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