Health bill ‘good for Brid’ – MP

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the GP Committee at the BMA.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the GP Committee at the BMA.

LOCAL MP Greg Knight is confident that the new Health and Social Care Bill, which has just passed through its final reading in Parliament, will be a positive development for Bridlington Hospital despite widespread concerns.

Mr Knight said: “All the problems that Bridlington Hospital has had in the past have been due to decisions made by unelected managers.

Bridlington Hospital'Visit by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley'PA1050-15b'Alan Brook, Greg Knight, Andrew Lansley

Bridlington Hospital'Visit by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley'PA1050-15b'Alan Brook, Greg Knight, Andrew Lansley

“On most occasions local doctors have been supportive of the hospital. What the bill does is to give GPs the commissioning power to be able to buy the services that they want, where they want them. It can mean better patient care.

“If the local doctors continue to be supportive it should be good news for Bridlington Hospital. Obviously this will be within limits - there are always going to be major centres providing certain sorts of specialist care - but in terms of general healthcare it ought to be good for the people of Bridlington.

“The whole thrust of the bill is to reduce bureaucracy and the number of managers, and what has really come across to me over the years is that there are too many pen-pushers in the NHS.

“Some doctors are afraid of change, but change can be positive and I hope that those who are wary at first will see that this can be a good thing. It’s all designed to give doctors and patients more choice, not less. If the result is more money going into patient care and less into management, then that has to be a good thing.”

A large percentage of the population - and many professional health bodies - do not share Mr Knight’s confidence, however, and it has taken the bill over a year to get to this stage. There are particular concerns about the increased role of independent providers.

Well-known local campaigner Jean Wormwell of the Pensioners Action Group East Riding (PAGER) has spent many years championing the rights of older people. She said: “I’m worried that this is privatisation by the back door.

“They want people out of hospital quicker nowadays, especially older people. This can be a good thing, because no-one wants to be in hospital if they don’t have to be, there can be the danger of hospital-acquired infections and most people would prefer to be at home. But the care just isn’t there for them in their own homes, the money isn’t there to provide it. Unless more money goes into the system there just won’t be the resources and people will have to pay for care themselves. It’s very worrying.”

Mrs Wormwell is far from alone in her concerns: the majority of health organisations have come out against the bill, including the Royal Colleges which represent professionals including GPs, midwives, nurses, surgeons, and more. The Faculty of Public Health, of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, has warned that the Bill might increase costs, reduce quality of care, and result in the loss of a comprehensive National Health Service.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the British Medical Association and previously a Bridlington GP for many years (right), is a firm supporter of the founding principles of the NHS. He said: “The Health and Social Care Bill is not fit for purpose and it would be far better for the NHS if it were withdrawn.”

However, after final readings in the House of Lords and the House of Commons earlier this week, the Bill is now set to pass into law by Easter, despite fears about what it means for the future of health care.