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Election promises not enough to fix NHS BMA warns

As the old year ends and a new year starts, there is more worrying news from the British Medical Association (BMA).  There quarterly survey across all branches of practice show that nearly 50% of doctors reported low or very low morale. Morale among GPs continues to be lower than other branches of practice. 74% of GPs describe their workload as being unmanageable or unsustainable, a percentage that has steadily increased in every quarter of 2014.  Little wonder then that the BMA start 2015, the year of the general election, with a sobering warning.

Morale is low and yet a new report finds that the NHS provides amazing value for money when compared internationally.  So what is the problem? All the evidence shows the NHS is stretched to breaking point and we can see that increasing month on month as the cuts bite into front-line services.

Pledges in the party manifestos for the coming general election should come with a health warning. Pledges and promises won't alone fix the problems.

Manifesto promises and pledges of support alone will not help protect the NHS, the chair of the BMA has warned.

In his New Year’s message to members, Dr Mark Porter says that with just months to go until the general election doctors and patients can expect to hear all politicians pledge their support for the NHS, but words alone will not help improve the NHS.

At a time when 74 per cent of GPs face unmanageable or unsustainable workload pressures1 and NHS emergency admissions have reached record levels2, Dr Porter says that “resources and commitment are vital too”.

Dr Porter says: “Every day in the NHS, we work hard to maintain the trust that our patients place in us. They in turn want the NHS to thrive, and the parties reflect that. But all too often politicians make promises as if words alone can improve the NHS. Resources and commitment are vital too.

“They pledge thousands more GPs, for example, but with no apparent recognition of the growing and unsustainable pressures faced by general practices, and when the numbers entering GP training in England have actually dropped by 15 per cent this year alone.

“And after each election, the new minister has the power to make us feel as if we’re in a giant snow globe. A colossal hand reaches for the NHS, and we’re being shaken up again with some new laws and organisations. After the turmoil the snow settles; everything’s in a different place, but little has been made better than it was.

“The time and endeavour would have been better spent in protecting what we are in danger of losing through starved resources and an obsession with competition and markets.”

Dr Porter adds that for doctors it is deeply frustrating that successive governments continue to makes changes to the NHS while opportunities for real change in order to improve patient services have been missed.

He says: “The NHS is, according to the highly respected Commonwealth Fund, the highest-quality and most cost-effective healthcare system of 11 leading economies, including Germany, France and the US. And so our many foreign admirers ask the same question: if the system is that good, why do your governments keep playing around with it?

“For doctors, it’s doubly frustrating when there has been so much unnecessary reorganisation, while real opportunities to improve services have been repeatedly passed over. There is nothing more demoralising than trying to make failed policies work, but doctors have never been a passive or reactive voice. It is down to us all of us to articulate and create an NHS that serves our patients best, in whichever nation we work.”

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