Friday, 4 February 2011

Will Doctors strike to oppose NHS reforms?

Anyone who even keeps a vague grasp of the News knows that health services in England are currently facing major change. The Coalition Government and Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, have recently published the Health and Social Care Bill, which proposes the biggest reorganisation of the NHS since it's birth. Until the bill is passed, many within the sector face an uncertain future, including suppliers such as ourselves. We've covered proposals fairly extensively over the past few months here at the Rewarding Marketing Blog, so there's no need to go through them again now.

But the change is by no means certain yet. The bill has had it's second reading in the House of Commons and is now at the Committee stage, so still has a long way to go before it's passed. Whether that actually happens will no doubt be affected by public opinion and especially by the attitudes of people within the health service itself.  If this is the case, then the growing groundswell of opposition must be starting to worry Lansley and David Cameron.

If an article over at the Independent is to be believed, then there's even the possibility of Doctors striking, which would be a massive, if not fatal blow to the reforms. The Prime Minister's recent message, attempting to allay GP's fears seems to have had little effect. Instead, according to the article;

"The mood among doctors has darkened in the last month since the Government published its response to the consultation on the White Paper in December, which largely dismissed doctors' criticisms, raising doubts over the BMA's "engagement" strategy."

We highlighted the fact that the Government's 'consultations' had made little difference to their intentions and it seems that this has indeed angered many Doctors. Though strike action is far from a certainty, the British Medical Association is calling an emergency meeting to discuss their next step, and the chair of the meeting, Dr Steve Hajioff, isn't ruling out the possibility of such a move.

The main problem that Doctors and many others have with the changes is the idea of competition and a market based system, with some fearing it's the first stages of actually privatising the NHS. Unfortunately for the chances of agreement, this also happens to be the Bill's essential element, without which the rest would fall apart. The Government has said that introducing competition is the main means by which improvements will be made.

Though not there yet, it does seem likely that this key issue could bring both sides to a stale mate. Doctors are so intrinsic to the reforms that they just couldn't happen without them. If they refuse to back down, then that could effectively put an end to Andrew Lansley's plans. Only time will tell.

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