Doctors told not to explain delays

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The Independent Online
MANAGERS at a hospital in north-west London have told their senior doctors not to explain to patients why they have to wait for their operations.

A memo from the chief executive of Northwick Park hospital, Harrow, also instructs them to limit what they say to family doctors about financial contracts.

Last night the British Medical Association condemned the move as sinister and more evidence of growing secrecy within the NHS. John Chawner, chairman of the BMA consultants' committee, said yesterday that the memo showed 'growing management restrictions on senior hospital doctors' rights to speak out on behalf of their patients'.

He pointed out that on 28 January, Baroness Cumberlege, the health minister, said: 'Legitimate questions from patients should be answered fully, frankly and without delay.' Mr Chawner said: 'This is a sinister development particularly at a time when hospitals are running out of money. Patients should be told fully what is going on.'

He said Lady Cumberlege's comments were in marked contrast to 'the atmosphere of secrecy which is now spreading throughout the NHS'.

The Northwick Park memo was sent to senior managers and consultants last month from the Michael Cole, the hospital's chief executive. The hospital has had to abandon part of its February and March non-urgent caseload because money has run out.

Mr Cole said last night that there had been no intention to muzzle consultants.

'We have had to restrict some of our routine operations and there is no point involving patients in the details of our contract arrangements. They just don't understand that sort of thing . . . The BMA has misunderstood our intentions.'