Headlines: October 4th, 2000

The BMA has given a cautious response to Conservative proposals encouraging patients to opt into private health care schemes in order to ease the burden on the NHS. Dr George Rae, deputy chairman of the BMA’s representative body, told a fringe meeting at the party conference in Bournemouth it was crucial that the health service remained a universal system, putting patients first.Its own funding review report, recognising the continuing shortfall in NHSfunding, will be published next year.

The BMA’s key message at its event was concerns about shortages of doctors to deliver the NHS Plan. There are plans to increase the number of GPs by only 2000, and both junior and senior doctors in hospitals are concerned about the lack of skilled people both in the profession now, and planned.

At the conference, Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox proposed taking spending on healthcare to European standards by encouraging people to invest in a competitive private sector as well as proposing to match today’s promises for the NHS plan. He said that removing disincentives to take up private health care would ease the burden on the NHS, and increase competition, improving complacency in the private sector.