Health reforms attacked by bishop as top surgeon quits

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The Independent Online
CELIA HALL

Medical Editor

The Government's health reforms came under a double attack yesterday with a leading surgeon quitting the NHS and a bishop condemning the service's "fragmentation".

Professor Christopher Colton, 55, an orthopaedic surgeon, is retiring early from Nottingham University Hospital in protest at the reforms, while the Bishop of Ripon launched a bitter attack in a sermon on the eve of the British Medical Association's annual meeting in Harrogate.

"I am fed up with the health service reforms. Many of them are more to do with politics than patient care," said Professor Colton. He claimed that, at one stage, he was awarded a pounds 20,000 bonus for agreeing to treat fewer people.

"In order not to exceed the targets, I had to close my children's clinic for about four months and not have any referrals," he said. "I was seeing so few people it meant another target was 100 per cent successful in that nobody would have to wait longer than 30 minutes.

"I don't like the fact that decisions are being made about care based on market forces and not necessarily on clinical need."

Professor Colton was supported by the Tory chairman of the hospital trust, Martin Suthers, who said: "I am sorry to see him go but I understand his frustration."

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Ripon, the Right Reverend David Young, last night attacked the NHS reforms for fragmenting the service, encouraging confrontation within it, and for threatening the future of hospitals.

At the traditional evening service on the eve of the BMA annual meeting, which starts today in Harrogate, he also warned of increasing inequality if the NHS market is allowed to follow its principles of commercial forces.

Last night in his sermon, he questioned the benefits of the Government's health reforms to patients. "The market depends upon competition. Does this not strike at the root of the principle of caring? Surely it does in part," he said.

"The increasingly competitive nature of health care is damaging. Although lip service is given to the idea of co-operation, the reality of the internal market requires competition, secrecy and fragmentation of historical links and the exchange of expertise."

Doctors, he said, understand patients' needs and should be the ones who run hospital trustsrather than administrators.

He is the second bishop to launch an attack on the reforms. Last year in Birmingham, the Right Reverend Mark Santer described them as un-Christian and morally wrong.

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