Consultants ‘wasting care time on battle over Bill’

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Hospital consultants’ time and effort is being diverted from improving patient care by the need to fight a battle with the Government on two fronts, a senior doctors’ leader has said.

A “belligerent and obstinate” Government has forced consultants into conflict over NHS reform in England and the future of their pensions, said the chairman of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee, Mark Porter.

He said financial constraints mean NHS consultants are being put under “extreme pressure” to reduce the amount of time they devote to improving the quality of services.

Dr Porter’s broadside, in a speech to the BMA’s consultants conference in London, comes the day after opposition efforts to rein in the Health and Social Care Bill were defeated in the House of Lords.

Peers have voted down amendments designed to restrict the role of regulator Monitor and protect the NHS from European competition law. It is being seen as a sign that concessions made by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley may have been enough to reassure Liberal Democrat critics and secure the passage of the Bill through Parliament by the May 9 Queen’s Speech.

Dr Porter repeated the BMA’s call for the Bill to be scrapped, denouncing the legislation as “447 pages of unintelligible red tape” which should by now have “shrivelled and died” in the face of opposition from the medical professions.

He blamed “Government obstinacy” in pension negotiations for forcing the BMA to hold a ballot on possible industrial action short of a strike.

“Consultants have been pushed into conflict by a belligerent and obstinate Government, when we would far rather be planning improvements in clinical services,” said Dr Porter.

He added: “The tragedy is that doctors’ time and effort is being increasingly diverted away from seeking to improve patient care.

“The Government has opened battle with doctors.”

He added: “The Big Society is giving voice to its concerns. The Big Society says: enough of this. Mr Cameron, stop this Bill.”