NHS reforms 'could prompt closures'

Increasing competition in the health service could lead to some hospital units closing, a leading doctor has warned.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said NHS hospitals are likely to lose services to private companies under the Government's reforms, which could leave them struggling.



As a result, many trusts will be "unable to cover the costs of entire departments", which could lead to their closure, or cuts being made in other ways such as reducing staff numbers.



The warning comes as an investigation for Pulse magazine suggests one in 10 GPs on the boards of new commissioning consortia also hold an executive-level position with a private firm.



GP consortia will be in charge of £80 million of NHS funding, with GPs making decisions on where to send patients for treatment, including to private companies.



The magazine said the finding exposed the "serious potential for conflict of interest in the Government's NHS reforms".



In a speech to the BMA's annual conference of hospital consultants, Dr Porter said the current "rationing" of services, together with reforms that will see NHS hospitals lose work to competitors, will result in less funding for NHS hospitals, but leaving them with fixed costs.



Hospital services considered to be of low value by commissioners, for example cataract surgery, were already being stopped or rationed in some areas.



"This is the true cost of shifting care from NHS hospitals into the community or to alternative providers," Dr Porter said.



"No savings are made for the NHS as a whole, but what is left behind can become a financially unviable remnant with a greater proportion of fixed costs."



Dr Porter said that the elements of the Health and Social Care Bill, currently going through parliament, that would increase competition would have "devastating consequences" in the long term but were being downplayed by the Government.



"It has been relentlessly presented to the public as a move to put NHS money into the hands of doctors to spend wisely for their patients.



"However, that is far from the whole truth. The truth is that this Bill aims to transform the NHS by making the development of a market in healthcare the most important priority in the NHS.



"And that truth is the reason the Government has found itself having to ignore the advice of dozens of organisations, all saying that this is the wrong thing to do.



"In order for competition to be meaningful, it must be possible and accepted that some organisations will fail.



"Simple to understand, but devastating in its effects upon a cash-limited health service forcibly opened up to commercial competition."







Pulse based its investigation on responses to a freedom of information request from 17 primary care trusts (PCTs).



The data covered 132 members of GP consortia.



Of these, 15 held board-level positions in private companies in addition to their roles on consortia.



Another 15 were either shareholders or advisers to private firms.



Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a negotiator with the BMA's GP committee, said: "There are real concerns about GPs with a senior-level interest in a private provider and we would suggest as far as possible to avoid such doctors sitting on commissioning boards because of perceived or actual conflict of interest."



It comes as researchers warned that the Government's health reforms will spell the end of the NHS and could lead to a US-style system.



The NHS will become an arena where private companies compete and the Government "finances but does not provide healthcare".



Professor Allyson Pollock, from the Barts and The London School of Medicine, and David Price, senior research fellow at its Centre for Health Sciences, said GP consortia will "not have a duty to provide a comprehensive range of services but only 'such services or facilities as it considers appropriate"'.



In response to Dr Porter's comments, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "If we want to preserve the NHS for future generations, we must act now.



"We have protected the NHS and are ploughing in an extra £10.7 billion of funding.



"But the NHS must modernise in order to keep up with the increasing demand on services, an ageing population and rising costs of new drugs and treatments.



"The only way we can deliver productivity gains is by increasing clinical involvement.



"In addition, requiring all hospitals to become foundation trusts will help them become stronger and more productive.



"Our plans to modernise the NHS will release £1.7 billion savings every year, helping the NHS meet its efficiency target.



"They will also help put the NHS on a sustainable financial footing through reduced bureaucracy and much stronger incentives for quality and efficiency."

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor