BMA leader calls for NPfIT to be scrapped

  • 3 June 2009

One of the leaders of the British Medical Association has described the NHS IT programme as “the worst case of planning blight across the NHS” and called for it to be ended.

Speaking at the BMA’s Consultants Conference, Dr Jonathan Fielden, chair of the BMA’s Consultants Committee also said it was time for the health service to wean itself off failed, expensive government policies, commercial contracts and management consultants.

“When MPs regain probity, regain trust, then perhaps they can join our crusade to further improve healthcare; until then don’t stand in our way,” said Dr Fielden.

Earlier this week, the BMA launched a campaign to “save” the NHS from “commercialisation”, saying it should remain “publicly funded, publicly provided, and publicly accountable.”

The campaign includes a website on which NHS staff can sign up to the campaign and contribute examples of market reforms that they feel have cost the NHS money or harmed patient care.

At the Consultant’s Conference, Dr Fielden said hugely wasteful Private Finance Initiative and Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC) deals should be scrapped. He also that private management consultants should be “ditched” and that the health service would do much better to rely on the experience and expertise of its 1.2m staff.

“Ditch the management consultants – when we have to tell them how primary care works, when we see them flogging our ideas there is immense frustration that we are not utilising the great talents across the NHS. We have 40,000 hospital consultants, 1.3 million employees, 250 ‘top leaders’ – surely we can utilise the talent we have?”

Dr Fielden said the value of electronic patient records had been established, but that the National Programme for IT in the NHS was taking too long to deliver them. “At what stage do we cut loose from this spiraling disaster?” he asked.

“It is thwarting local chances to move forward; the worst case of planning blight across the NHS. Let’s free hospitals to move forward. Keep the ‘national electronic super-highway’ but free trusts to go their own way. It will be faster; it will deliver for patients, meet the needs of clinicians and produce another massive saving.”

Dr Fielden also argued that the BMA’s Look After our NHS campaign was vital given the growing public sector funding crisis that is set to trigger cuts and savings in the health service.

“For the first time in working memory, we may see real cuts in health spending,” he said. “This will provoke some stark choices: what is kept, what is cut, what can the NHS afford?

“Let’s ensure that it’s doctors making those difficult decisions in partnership with our patients and healthcare colleagues, not faceless bureaucrats, accountants, and those out to fleece the taxpayer.”

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