Controversy over proposed NHS changes

The government’s proposed changes to the National Health Service continue to be controversial, with the editors of three leading journals claiming that the reforms have created an “unholy mess”.

In an editorial published in Health Service Journal, Nursing Times and British Medical Journal, the publications’ three editors said the changes are "unnecessary, poorly conceived and badly communicated" and have "destabilised and damaged" the health service.

The Society’s own view was given in our response to the ‘NHS listening exercise’ last year, where we said:

"The Society believes a collaborative model to be essential to this. We strongly recommend that service users and care providers should work together with common, agreed aims and with full respect being paid to service users’ views. A non-paternalistic approach to providing service users with information relevant to their own care should be adopted.

Greater flexibility in care … would also be beneficial. Appropriate information provision and a continuing dialogue between service users and healthcare providers is one way of helping to ensure that care is matched to individual service-user needs. This will require a great deal of education and training for all parties."

Commenting on recent developments, Dr Carole Allan, the British Psychological Society’s President, said:

"I am concerned that  the Bill as it currently stands still proposes a competitive model for services which will consume NHS time,money and resources from the overriding need to provide high quality, integrated care for some of the most vulnerable groups within our communities."

In the light of the controversy surrounding the highly contentious Health & Social Welfare Bill, I would like to call on the Society to issue a statement as soon as possible on this matter.

Richard Fielding

The Allied Health Professionals Federation (AHPF) comprising the following societies have now come out unequivocally against the HSC Bill:
The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

The Society and College of Radiographers

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

The College of Paramedics

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

The British and Irish Orthoptic Society

The British Association/ College of Occupational Therapists

The British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists

The British Dietetic Association

The British Association of Dramatherapists

The British Association of Art Therapists

The British Association for Music Therapy

The BPS remains steadfastly silent on this most important issue. Given our focus on ethical behaviour, I am ashamed at the silence of the Society on this issue.

I would like to call on the BPS and fellow clinical and health psychologists and other psychologists/BPS members with involvement in the National Health Service (NHS) to align themselves with the medical and nursing professional organizations, Royal Colleges and faculties in calling for a release of the Bill Risk Register as requested by the Information Commissioner (but persistently refused by the government), and the complete and total withdrawal of the current Health & Social Welfare Bill that is being debated in Parliament/The HoLs.

It is rapidly becoming apparent that the government has obscured the true nature of this Bill which will lead to fragmentation of care, the introduction of wasteful competition of service provision, greater likelihood that vulnerable populations will "fall through the cracks" and cherry-picking of services by private companies who will come to dominate provision. One lesser know feature of this Bill is that EU Competition Law will enable private providers to insist that they be awarded contracts, and sue if they are underbid by NHS providers. (There is already one case in Yorkshire of a private provider suing an NHS trust over failure to award it a contract). Most worryingly, in 2014 there are plans to introduce personal health accounts. Each person will have a lump sum to spend on their health care. When that money is used up, you will have to find money from your own pocket, or health insurance, if you can get it, and get them to pay once you have it. In short, the government's bill is moving us towards a US -style private insurance system, and NOT a European-style socialized medicine system.

The BPS should not remain on the sidelines. It has an obligation as a professional body to call for this pernicious privatization of the NHS to be withdrawn forthwith.

It is not too late to stop this Bill.