A liberal think tank has condemned comments by the BMA's chairman that private firms being allowed to run aspects of the NHS means the service is being run like a "shoddy supermarket war".
The director of Progressive Vision, Shane Frith, said the NHS should be run more like supermarkets, not less. He branded Dr Hamish Meldrum's (pictured) remarks to the BMA's annual conference in Edinburgh as "ridiculous", adding that supermarket competition was "neither shoddy nor warlike".
"Supermarket customers can buy a wide and diverse range of products, at very reasonable prices and can expect minimal queues or waiting times to get what they want," he said. "If only NHS patients were so lucky. They often have to wait weeks or months for the treatment they need, have very little choice in the service they get and end up receiving health care that rates amongst the worst in the advanced world."
James Fothergill, head of public services policy at the CBI, which represents private firms, said the BMA was misguided in its attack on the strategic use of the private sector to deliver healthcare to the NHS.
"Evidence shows that in England, where reforms have been more radical, the NHS has delivered significantly better outcomes than in Scotland, where reforms have been held back," he said. "A recent report by the Healthcare Commission said that competition to provide NHS care has led to improved services in many areas."