The health reforms are big news – it is official. My barometer of when politics has got the attention of the wider public, my little sister, asked me what was happening to the NHS. The publication of the Health and Social Care Bill has made the changes to the NHS look very real. Doctors, nurses and patients are all expressing their concern – even my little sister is worried. The path has been marked out on a difficult journey, at a breakneck pace. And to be perfectly honest I’m not overly keen on the destination.
The NHS feels a little bit like a ship trying to traverse a stormy sea of financial austerity whilst the government is taking pot shots with a range of structural reforms. My worry is that the NHS will sink before it can be put back together or the impact of the reforms will be so great that when the NHS reaches its destination it will be unrecognisable.
The reforms are so fundamental that they seem to leach into everything. Take a typical day from my diary, last week, I met with the GMC to discuss revalidation in the light of the workforce white paper (Developing the Healthcare Workforce) which has left a hole in the original plan. Deaneries, which were central to the process, face an uncertain future with proposals to create “skills networks” that will potentially take on the powers of deaneries, PCTs and SHAs. All this change is causing a lot of head scratching for the GMC. They still think revalidation for junior doctors will be implemented by 2012 but, I was left asking myself if the process will be sunk by the complexity and speed of the healthcare reforms
The same day, I attended a meeting at Medical Education England – which is set to be completely transformed and restructured by the bill. A new body, Health Education England, looking more broadly at education and training will replace it. Another major revamp to the structure of our training and education looks set to occur, but the questions remains, what will the changes cost? Should we have any faith that the reforms will improve our training? It doesn’t seem likely from here.
To round off the day I met with the Shadow Health Secretary, John Healey to discuss, guess what? – the bill. It was a great opportunity to discuss some of our concerns about the impact of the reforms on training. I put it to him simply – we are worried that these reforms threaten the training of doctors and could seriously jeopardise the future of patient care.
The Government’s health reforms will have a massive influence on our working lives. Tell us what you think at our evening debate “Education and training – is it just an after thought?” You can submit questions or comments in advance to JDCchair@bma.org.uk or email the same address to attend the event.