After eight weeks of pausing, listening and reflecting, and a whole host of Health Bill amendments, NHIS’s Hannah Boylin asks, has anything really changed?
The last few weeks have been privy to twists and u-turns galore; the Government has listened to the Future Forum, who themselves listened to all concerned parties and, as a result of it all, the Health Bill has been recommitted to the Commons with some 181 amendments (and potentially more to follow).
Clegg and his Lib Dem posse are beaming from ear to ear as it appears their demands have been met (you may recall, back in May, Mr Clegg put his foot down and refused to support the Bill unless “substantial changes” were made). And the parties in the coalition are once again BFFs, with many predicting that the amended Bill will sail through Parliament as a result of renewed support from the Lib Dems.
It would seem, then, that everything is fine and dandy in the world of NHS reforms; the changes so desperately sought have been made and the Health Bill is laughing all the way to, well, being made law.
And yet, at the BMA’s Annual Representatives Meeting in Cardiff this week the majority of attendees (59%) decided that – despite the amendments – the association should call for the scrapping of the whole reform package.
At this point, you may – like me – have an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Was it not at a Special Representatives Meeting only in March that these exact sentiments were expressed? And did chair, Dr Hamish Meldrum, not state – quite plainly – that he did not support the Health Bill?
So after a nationwide tour of the Future Forum, eight weeks of pausing, listening and reflecting, and a whole host of amendments, it would seem that the critics are not quite placated and we are still in the same position. (Actually, that’s a little unfair. Meldrum seems to have been won over this time, and actually called for the motion to be defeated – although it is unclear whether this is through his own conviction in the reforms or in resignation of the fact that the Government are unlikely to accommodate further change).
However, the fact remains that despite the Government’s best efforts, the NHS reforms are still plagued by distrust: recent HSJ articles report that “Proposed commissioning groups will be ‘unsustainable’” and “‘Specialist’ doctors on CCG boards could be GPs”, rather than the hospital doctors that were promised.
Further, the overriding opinion expressed at the BMA’s meeting was that the Government had simply sold the profession a ‘respray job’. Dr Jacqui Davis argued that “competition is still there, rebranded as choice, foundation trusts are still there with no cap on private patients”.
Whether or not this is indeed the case – that the Government have merely dressed the reforms up differently – is something that could be debated over and over. However, the bigger issue (surely) is how we move forward. With the NHS still acting as ‘ball’ in a game of political football, will a happy medium ever be found; or will we merely continue in this cycle of discontent?
For, while the discussion rages on, there is still a £15-20 billion efficiency saving to be made. And we can’t forget the NHS staff who, despite being incredibly de-motivated, still manage to do a good job for their patients. Perhaps it’s time that the Government and their critics sit down, put their claws away and actually listen to each other, before we push it too far and lose the talent that has this far given us an NHS to be proud of.
Hannah Boylin is Editor & PR Manager at NHiS.
NHiS provides healthcare organisations with insight based solutions, to assist engagement with NHS customers and to ensure patient and commercial outcomes are optimised.
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