Prof Finbarr Martin is the past President of the British Geriatrics Society, a Consultant Geriatrician at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Medical Gerontology (Hon), King’s College London
I must be one of many geriatricians increasingly concerned about the implications of the current health service changes on the services we can provide for older patients. Our aspiration is to provide reliable local quality services, with some semblance of integration – or at least coordination – between acute and community, and primary and secondary care.
Several areas in the country have made great strides in this direction and British Geriatrics Society members have been influential in the process. However progress is threatened by the government’s continued drive to competitive, piecemeal and price-based commissioning. Professional societies such as ours spoke against the Health and Social Care bill becoming law, but to no avail. The BMA has gone quiet.
An important and growing voice of opposition is the NHS Consultants’ Association. It has members in all specialties and throughout the UK. Its prime purpose is to maintain and develop the NHS as a public service. This means publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable. The Association rejects the increasing commercialisation and fragmentation of the NHS and has campaigned actively against the Health and Social Care Bill from its first appearance as a White Paper. Meetings have been held with politicians of all parties, many articles written, reports commissioned and public meetings addressed. It concentrates entirely on these activities. It is not a trade union or negotiating body.
In 2005 the Association initiated the campaign Keep our NHS Public. This brings together NHS staff in all disciplines with members of the general public. It now has branches in many parts of the country. Since the Bill became an Act, the NHSCA has been collecting evidence of the damage being caused by the enormous diversion of scarce public funds into running a competitive market system. It has also worked to a positive alternative to politicians and the general public. Removal of the artificial separation between purchaser/commissioner and provider must be the long term objective. So, it would help to keep the NHSCA informed of developments in your area.
Membership is open to all consultants, whether in clinical, academic or public health medicine, together with those in permanent career posts. Retired colleagues are also welcome, as are specialist registrars (as associate members). Further information from: firstname.lastname@example.org uk or website http://www.nhsca.org.uk.