The British Medical Association has called for NHS bosses to be held accountable for hospital failures through a new regulation system.
Hospital chiefs and other managers in the health service should have to sign up to a professional regulator so they are “held accountable for their actions and omissions”, the BMA said.
Robert Francis QC, chairman of the public inquiry into the serious care failings at Stafford Hospital, called for a system of regulation, saying that there should be a “proper degree of accountability for senior managers and leaders”.
But in the government’s initial response to the inquiry, ministers did not introduce such a system. They did however say that NHS managers responsible for failures will be barred from working in the health service.
GP Dr Peter Holden told the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Edinburgh: “Not even in communist China did they have managers overrunning doctors in the operation of hospitals and health services.
“It’s about having an institutional ethos.”
Doctors also voted to reject any further budget cuts.
Dr Jackie Applebee, a GP from London, told delegates that the government’s £20bn efficiency drive in the health service was leading to cuts in frontline staff.
“There is no doubt that the NHS is under severe strain and that staff are bearing the brunt of [NHS England chief executive Sir David] Nicholson’s £20bn efficiency savings,” she said.
“Despite assurances that no frontline jobs would be lost, the reality is that to make unprecedented savings it is not possible to leave the clinical payroll untouched.
“In my local trust Bart’s Health, 650 frontline jobs have been lost - about 3 per cent - and we are just about to hear the results of a consultation that proposes cutting and down-banding community staff.”
The union also said that the government should stop paying millions of pounds to management consultancy firms for coming up with regimes for hospitals that are failing.
Citing the failure regime set up for for South London Healthcare Trust, the first trust to ever be put into administration, general surgeon Anna Athow said: “Our union should not only condemn the setting aside of large sums of money for failure regimes to close hospitals, but oppose the hospital closures themselves.”
She told the meeting that the last government launched a “war of attrition” on district hospitals, which had continued under the Coalition.
“So began the government war of attrition of the DGHs (general district hospitals) and the stripping of their A&Es, maternity units and paediatric departments,” she told delegates.
“After the election the Coalition enthusiastically continued these plans.
“So far more than 32 DGHs have been run down or closed, with on-going huge reconfigurations.”