15 DECEMBER 1944, Page 2

The B.M.A. Conference

The British Medical Association has agreed to negotiate with the Minister of Health, though it is asking for something a long way removed from that which the Minister has offered. Shortage of medical manpower has been given as a prime reason for the doctors' wish for something less than a too per cent. coverage. But surely the greater the shortage, the greater the need for comprehensive organisation to enable every doctor to use his skill to the maximum advantage. In the face of too per cent, coverage for national insur- ance, it is unlikely that the Minister will weaken on this issue. But it may be that the B.M.A. negotiators will drop this point to fight the more strongly against the local authorities. Here the doctors have a stronger case, since many local authorities have yet to prove themselves efficient hospital administrators. The great advantage of the White Paper proposal of joint health authorities was that it combined the function of planning with administration of most of the hospital service. The B.M.A. and voluntary hospitals' alterna- tive of regional hospital boards (to plan over larger areas and to advise the Minister on the allocation of funds to existing authorities and institutions) is a very poor second best. The chances of up- grading the bad municipal hospitals would be greatly reduced ; while it is difficult to see who would be responsible for making sure that the public gets the service the Government has promised. There remains the possibility of a National Health Corporation, with a Ministerially appointed Board with a minority of doctor members. The local authorities would fight such a proposal tooth and nail.