Mr. Bevan and the Doctors
Publication of the communications exchanged between the Minister of Health and the British Medical Association is a salutary reminder that the National Health Service Act comes into operation in little more than six months' time. That is a safe assumption, however the plebiscite to be taken by the B.M.A. on the Government's proposal goes. The service may begin with a skeleton and inadequate staff, but it is highly unlikely that so large a proportion of doctors will hold aloof that no `effective start can be made at all. But it is not in such terms that anyone can desire to discuss the inception of what should be a great and beneficent enterprise. A reasonable understanding on all essential points, which will enable the doctors to accept the new conditions if not with enthusiasm at any rate in a spirit of co-operation, should still be possible. The importance of the differences must not be exaggerated. Financially the doctors will have little to complain of. The small basic salary of k300 a year— which is, without any real justification, attacked as the first step towards a salaried State service—will be very useful to the young doctor starting practice for the first time. As to conditions still in dispute, it is plain that publicly remunerated practices must not be bought and sold, and the compensation to existing practitioners on that head is fully adequate. The doctors' demand that they should be allowed to appeal to the courts in the event of what they consider unjust dismissal could be conceded without harm to anyone—though the aggrieved practitioner would find the machinery provided in the Bill less costly, more human and at least equally just. The diffi- culty about the dissolution of partnerships is genuine, but the B.M.A., while objecting to the terms in the Bill, do not propose an alternative. Here agreement should surely be possible without postponing the clarification of the Bill till litigation provides a ruling. The present tension between the B.M.A. and the Ministry is disturbing. It can only be hoped that the discussions which must take place on details of administration will do something to diminish it.