The leader of Britain's doctors warned Tony Blair yesterday that the medical profession was facing its "nemesis" because of "intolerable workload pressures" imposed by the Government.
Dr Ian Bogle, the chairman of the British Medical Association, said doctors felt mercilessly exploited and had become "whipping boys" when the Government did not meet its own manifesto pledges. He appealed to politicians, patients and the media to stop fostering a culture of blame, with doctors the victims of a witch-hunt.
Delegates at the BMA's annual meeting in Bournemouth later passed a series of motions condemning the Government's handling of the NHS plan, published last summer, rationing of health care, health service funding and proposals for private sector involvement. They called for a huge increase in staff and resources.
Dr Bogle, a former GP in Liverpool, said the Prime Minister had won the support of many doctors in the 1997 election, optimistic at the promises of NHS regeneration and renewal. "Four years on, our hope has turned to despair and disenchantment, our saviours have become our accusers and our morale has been driven to distressingly new depths," he said.
"Doctors are under siege – from intolerable workload pressures cranked up by the latest gimmicky government initiative, from assaults on our professionalism and our professional standards, from press and politicians who seize with glee on every error and accuse us of being complacent about poor practice and unaccountable to patients. We are facing our nemesis as a profession."
Dr Bogle said doctors' commitment was being exploited and they were expected to prop up an under-staffed and under-resourced service. He added: "The time is fast approaching when we will have to ask ourselves if we are prepared to go on soaking up the pressure, filling gaps where there are doctor shortages and racing through four-minute consultations wondering afterwards whether we missed something."
He said consultant vacancies had risen by 40 per cent, many doctors were retiring early and, in some specialties, the shortage of doctors was jeopardising safety and patient care. To meet all the Government's plans, the NHS needed 30 to 50 per cent more consultants and 10,000 more GPs.
Mr Bogle was also scathing over the report on the Alder Hey organ retention scandal last year by Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, which referred 18 doctors to the General Medical Council.
Addressing his remarks to Tony Blair, Dr Bogle said: "I am warning the Prime Minister not to denigrate and abuse us, not to blame those of us who work in the health service for the deficiencies of the health service, not to disparage or dismiss our concerns in the way his Tory predecessors did."
He warned: "You may have another five years in office, but you don't have another five years to stop the rot."Reuse content