Why are doctors so angry?

Jeremy Hunt Doctors have no confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

When the British Medical Association conference passed a vote of no confidence in the health secretary this week it seemed almost inevitable.

Doctors speaking during the debate were angry.

Led by consultant radiologist Jacky Davis, who said the NHS in England had been "wrecked" by the "vandals in Westminster", speaker after speaker was critical of what was happening.

Traditionally the chair of the BMA, who at the end of debates gives their view on the issue, takes a more moderate line. But not this time. Dr Mark Porter said doctors should show no mercy.

Referring to the no-confidence motion passed last year in Andrew Lansley, Dr Porter said the vote was in "danger of becoming a BMA tradition" before adding: "Some traditions are comfortable and should be maintained."

And that debate on Monday was not the only occasion during the conference that ministers have felt the anger of the medical profession.

In his speech to open the event, Dr Porter mocked ministers, questioning whether they even understood what was happening on the front line.

And on Wednesday, in his final speech as the GP leader at the BMA, Dr Laurence Buckman said ministers were using GPs as a "political football".

Profound worries

But it was not always like this.

Of course the BMA - a trade union, after all - has had a long history of being critical of the government.

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They are genuinely fearful for the future of healthcare and what this means for their working lives”

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However, no-confidence motions in individuals were rare until last year, and when they did make it onto the agenda they tended to get voted down as doctors did not want to seem to be stooping to personal attacks.

So what has changed?

There have been many grumblings about the detail of the government's reforms in England.

But the impression listening to doctors is that the real bone of contention is much more basic than that: they are genuinely fearful for the future of healthcare and what this means for their working lives.

While the NHS budget is being protected, the service is still being asked to make savings of nearly 5% a year to help it cope with factors such as the ageing population, the cost of new drugs and obesity.

It has prompted some areas to ration access to care, cut jobs and close services.

London GP Jackie Applebee believes the "NHS is in peril", and wants the government to do more.

"There is plenty of money in society to pay for the NHS. We have tax avoidance left, right and centre, billions that have been wasted on PFI [the private finance initiative]."

Dr David Wrigley, who works in the North West, says services are in "financial meltdown", yet the government was being "Orwellian" in talking about efficiency savings.

Or as one senior BMA official put it more bluntly this week: "It's not really about the reforms. It's the fact money is tight, which means services are being cut, care is suffering and jobs are at risk.

"The mistake this government made was putting everything together in a bill and allowing us to use it as a stick to beat them. They were stupid."

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    at age 75+ even a a heart transplant is no problem, All the while republican have no scruples / qualms sacrificing some 50 million with coercion, reckless abandon or impunity. Medical Care is strictly a business. Group of doctor under the tutelage of a MBA type set up clinic profit centers within hospitals, where hospitals and doctors bill separately , all at 40% plus more cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    US, where the cost is 60% or more, and what the patients get for it less then 40% as compared to Scandinavian Countries. Most of these Monster Medical Centers are not for profits.But lead by MBA type CEOs profit is the bottom line. Clinics are all profit centers. Over 50 Million people have NO Medical Insurance. Even Medicare does not pay for dental or hearing care. But if you are Cheney ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Why are Doctors so angry? I graduated medical school 3 years ago. I am contracted to work 48 hours a week, I spend over 50 in work (without overtime). I spend >2 hours a night revising for my postrad exams. I love my job, I care for my patients. I am angry at being labelled as selfish, money grabbing and uncaring. The system is breaking and constantly slandering all NHS staff is not the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Sorry, you're too late, Blair & Brown privatised large swathes of NHS [...........]

    Whatever the history, and whatever party,we must fight to keep the NHS out of private hands.
    Nothing has been as bad as the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and I doubt whether there has ever been a more evil government that this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    GPs should provide weekend cover and that should be non-negotiable.
    Consultants should not do private work when employed by the NHS.
    Apart from anything else there's a conflict of interest.
    We are facing major economic difficulties. Everyone else is having to make cuts and safe money and so should the medical profession.
    I'm not a teacher.


Comments 5 of 99


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