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Monday, 22 March 2010

Will the BMA be able to beat the government by enabling GPs to continue using expensive telephone numbers?

From: David Hickson - campaigner for the NHS

Revisions to the NHS GP contracts, which will come into effect on 1 April, have been published. A formal announcement will be made shortly by the Department of Health.

Implementation of these requirements should be the fulfilment of a long campaign to stop GPs subsidising the cost of providing NHS services at the expense of patients by using revenue sharing telephone numbers.

The BMA has issued Guidance to its members. This declares its opposition to the principles of the NHS and goes on to encourage and advise GPs to avoid (evade?) the intended ban on use of expensive telephone numbers. There is already evidence that the BMA tactics are being deployed successfully to hoodwink Primary Care Trusts.

I provide a full briefing and commentary in my blog:

Will the BMA be able to beat the government by enabling GPs to continue using expensive telephone numbers?

Please bear with me as I have to describe this at some length. Any scam relies on a reluctance to look below the surface and requires effort to be exposed. Unless a sufficient number of patients and PCTs become aware of what is going on this abuse of the NHS will continue.

There is a story to run now, however I urge proper and complete coverage of the issues when the Department of Health announces the changes. This announcement, which must occur before 1 April, could be made with the intention of securing coverage, or it could be "buried".
I attach [follow with] a copy of a message I have sent to the BMA and its members.

From: David Hickson - campaigner for the NHS
To: The British Medical Association, its GP Committee and its membership, as represented by LMCs

I write to advise you that I am seeking to draw maximum attention to a blog posting I have published:

Will the BMA be able to beat the government by enabling GPs to continue using expensive telephone numbers?

This provides a comprehensive briefing and commentary on the forthcoming changes to the NHS GP contracts and the Guidance issued by the BMA.

It is for the BMA and its membership to set its own policy with regard to the future of the NHS. If the BMA genuinely believes that patients should pay for access to NHS services according to the quality of service provided, then it should lobby and campaign for the changes to the NHS Constitution that would be necessary for this radical change to the principles of the NHS to be adopted.

Such a view is not in any way invalid; it has however not yet been accepted by the government or the "owners" of "our NHS". I firmly oppose it.

Many would think it improper to seek to achieve the desired effect of its policy by encouraging members to avoid or evade their contractual responsibilities, by relying on worthless assurances from demonstrably incompetent parties. NEG neither sets the rates paid by those who call the Talk Talk 0844 telephone numbers used with its "Surgery Line" system, nor is it apparently aware of those which are set by Talk Talk and other telephone service providers.

I hope that all members of the BMA, including the majority in General Practice who are content to fund telephone access without subsidy paid for by patients, are aware of the position that the BMA takes on this particular matter and the general stance this represents with respect to the principles of the NHS.

Enabling contracted providers to apply charges for access to (allegedly improved) NHS services is a classic example of how the NHS is being put out to a market and privatised. In my view, a body that advocates charges for access to NHS services, and seeks for these to be maintained by a somewhat underhand approach to contractual conditions intended to prevent them, has no place in the March and Rally in defence of the Welfare State on April 10


Please contact me for and with further information on this matter. I would be delighted to hear of a change of heart by the BMA.

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