Nov 1 2004
The British Medical Association has warned of a serious threat to health safeguards for patients, and the deregulation of the national health service, from new EU proposals.
Each member state currently regulates its own healthcare system - setting the standards, clinical guidelines and rules on qualifications for doctors working within its borders.
New proposals say that healthcare should become part of an internal European market. This would only allow a member state to set its own rules for healthcare if it could justify them under the market requirements - thus blocking individual countries from setting their own standards. This could pose a serious threat to patient safeguards, says the BMA.
The changes - part of the proposed EU Services Directive - would mean that member states would have to justify separate requirements and regulatory standards, proving them to be "non-discriminatory, necessary or proportional" in terms of the market. At present, anyone working as a doctor in the UK is regulated by the General Medical Council. However, under the proposals a doctor working in the UK who had qualified in another EU country would effectively be regulated by their home country. The UK would not be able to insist they work under the standards it lays down for its own doctors.
The BMA plans to raise its concerns with MEPs ahead of a public hearing on the Directive in Brussels on 11 November. Dr Edwin Borman, head of the BMA's International Committee, said:
"These new proposals undermine each member state's ability to decide what is in the best interests of its patients and its healthcare systems.
"In the UK clinical guidelines, referral schemes, licence to practice procedures and many other safeguards could all be removed - deemed as barriers to the internal market - if this Directive is adopted.
"Our concerns must be met if patient safety is to be guaranteed, and standards assured across the NHS."