The British Medical Association has launched a new multi-pronged attack on private sector involvement in the delivery of healthcare in the UK.

The Association is spearheading a new campaign designed to highlight the short-comings of market-driven reforms which, it has long-claimed, are not only wasting public money but are also having a negative impact on local health services.

According to the BMA, turning to the private sector for funding for new hospitals has “resulted in crippling debts for NHS Trusts”, and the introduction of competition between healthcare providers, as well as “costly deals” for independent sector treatment centres, has hit many existing services.

Under the banner Look after our NHS, the Association is aiming to gather examples of where public sector involvement in public healthcare has failed, and has planned a stream of activities to encourage doctors to vocalise their concerns over its impact on care, including a branded, interactive website, newsletter and special campaign pack.

Winners and losers?
Explaining the rationale behind the move, Dr Hamish Meldrum, the BMA’s Chairman of Council, said: “A market economy is based on winners and losers. We’re not prepared to allow parts of the NHS to fail”, and he stressed that the purpose of the campaign is to get rid of the market in healthcare to allow service providers to work together and not compete with each other for business.

But supporters of the policy maintain that introducing a more competitive element to healthcare – through the ISTC programme and Private Finance Initiative schemes - will help to boost the quality of services.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told PharmaTimes UK News: “Thanks to PFI, we have the biggest hospital building programme in the history of the NHS, opening the 100th scheme in October last year, two years before our NHS Plan deadline of 2010”. And with regard to the ISTC programme, the spokesperson claimed that it has “helped improve health services for patients, reduce waiting times and improve patient choice.”