Doctor’s morale is at an all-time low, and National Health Service is in danger of being of being destroyed by the government, British Medical Association consultants’ leader Dr Jonathan Fielder said at the annual consultants’ conference yesterday.

Relations between doctors and the government seem to be getting more fraught and, in what is largely being considered as a “handover” to future prime minister and current chancellor Gordon Brown, Dr Fielder stressed that the profession is “angry because of this government’s mis-handling of the health service, and has lost all confidence that the government can solve the problems it has created.”

He warned Brown that if he didn’t respond to “widespread fears” about health policy, the NHS would be in danger of being destroyed. “Political meddling has brought the NHS to its knees. Unshackle the profession, give us back the health service and we will rebuild it. Fail to do so and you will rightly have a long lasting legacy to be condemned for destroying the best piece of social capital the country has ever had.”

Dr Fielder went on to slam the government’s flagship health policies for lacking strategic direction, and pointing to the NHS’ recently estimated surplus of £500 million, he said: “The Department of Health, under treasury zeal, has cut too far.”

Points of contention

Primary points of contention include the closure of services, the debacle over the failed Medical Training Application Service under the Modernising Medical Careers framework, and the privatisation of healthcare services which, Fielden says, has been costly and disruptive. “The independent sector should only be used where the NHS needs it, not thrust into its midst like a carelessly placed hand grenade,” he argued.

A spokesperson for the BMA told PharmaTimes UK News that the government’s top priority with regard to health should now be to start listening to doctors’ concerns and then show that something is being done about them. “We need to move the NHS back into the hands of the clinicians, so they regain control of the total care package. Reforms have fragmented care, and clinicians need to be able to decide what’s best for a patient based on their clinical needs, which just isn’t happening under the current system.”

The NHS has been certainly been evolving at a rapid pace in recent times, as the government rolls out one reform after another. As one consultant told PharmaTimes UK News: “There has been more change in the NHS in last year than the last 10. Who can keep up?”

“We will support change where it is safe, where it enhances services,” Fielden said. But, he warned in a strong message to the government, “we will not stand by and see you decimate hospitals for purely financial reasons. We will not stand by and let you damage patient care through rushed reforms and we will not stand by and see the Trojan horse of the independent sector rolled in to take over the health service from within. It is not better, it is not better value and above all it is not safer.”

A rational way forward?

Last month, the BMA published its alternative approach to running the health service A rational way forward for the NHS in England. One of the key proposals was that the government should bow out of controlling the service and hand over the reigns to an independent body, to help take political wrangling out of the equation.

At the time, former BMA chairman James Johnson said: "The government's injection of funds has led to considerable improvements but there has been a failure to engage either the public or clinicians in the government's reform agenda. That reform is destabilising the NHS and the system of care is becoming fragmented."