Headlines: July 3rd, 2001

Speakers at the British Medical Association annual conference criticized the government and claimed that the NHS Plan, setting out long term modernisation plans for the NHS, was not deliverable without a significant increase in workforce and resources.The message for the government was that is time is running out to solve the problems of the NHS, because doctors were close to breaking point. They have become scapegoats for the failings of a system and a society with grossly unrealistic expectations. Dr Ian Bogle, head of the BMA, said: “Many doctors would soon have to ask themselves if they were 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 told the conference that their profession was “under siege” from politicians and the press. He said: “We have become scapegoats for the failings of a system and a society with grossly unrealistic expectations, whipping boys when government can’t live up to manifesto pledges, victims of a complaints culture fuelled by the hysteria surrounding medical mistakes.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said the government was in a dialogue with the BMA over the terms of a new contract. He recognized the need to increase medical manpower and relieve the medical workload, but made it clear that it will take time. He re-affirmed the belief that the NHS plan gives a framework for moving forward and building a health service which is more centred on the needs of the patient, and which devolves more power to the frontline.