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Health journals condemn NHS reforms

The editors of three leading healthcare journals have taken the unusual step of uniting to publish a joint assault on the Government's "poorly thought-through" NHS reforms.

In an editorial published simultaneously, the British Medical Journal, Health Service Journal and Nursing Times warned that flaws in the "bloated and opaque" Health and Social Care Bill would leave the NHS needing yet another overhaul within five years.

Separately, the BMJ published research suggesting that ditching Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's Bill now could save the NHS more than £1 billion in 2013.

The three journals called on Parliament to establish an independently-appointed standing commission to initiate "a mature and informed national discussion on the future of our national health system" and ensure that there is no repeat of Mr Lansley's "ideological and incompetent" attempt at reform.

While accepting that health professional groups differ in their stance on the Bill, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee, HSJ editor Alastair McLellan and Nursing Times editor Jenni Middleton said that there could be no doubting the "overwhelming sense of distress and lack of confidence in the Government's plans among those who must deliver the service".

They wrote: "Through a combination of poor political judgment and reluctance to engage with criticism, a set of (mostly) reasonable objectives morphed into an old-fashioned top-down reorganisation.

"It also resulted in a bloated and opaque piece of legislation, whose goals could have largely been achieved by other, more effective, means."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "The chorus of protest against David Cameron and Andrew Lansley's ill-conceived plans for the NHS grows louder by the day, uniting voices across the health world."

However a Department of Health spokesman said: "Our reforms are based on what NHS staff themselves have consistently said - they want more freedom from day-to-day bureaucracy and political interference so they can get on with the job of caring for patients. That is exactly what this Bill achieves.

He added: "It's completely untrue to suggest that dropping the Bill would save the NHS money. Our plans will reduce needless bureaucracy by a third and save £4.5 billion over the course of this Parliament and £1.5 billion every year afterwards. Every penny saved will be reinvested in frontline care for patients."


From Belfast Telegraph