Measures to tackle smoking-related illness outlined in today's (Wednesday 3 December, 2008) Queen's Speech are positive but lack detail, the BMA says. It also expresses concerns that proposals for an NHS constitution, while welcome in principle, could be used to reinforce the increasing commercialisation of healthcare in England, and will not protect the NHS from being used as a political football.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, says:

"While it is positive that the Government will introduce measures to protect children and young people from tobacco, the BMA will want to see a lot more detail.

"We have put forward proposals that will help break the cycle of tobacco addiction and the life-threatening diseases caused by smoking. A ban on tobacco vending machines, an end to "ten packs" of cigarettes, and stopping tobacco products being on public view in shops will help to prevent many young people from starting to smoke in the first place.

"Today's young smokers become tomorrow's parents who are addicted to cigarettes. We must break this tobacco trap and we need to know how the Government intends to do this."

Commenting on the proposed NHS Constitution, which will be published alongside the Health Bill, Dr Meldrum says:

"The BMA agrees that NHS patients deserve a clearer idea of both their rights and responsibilities and we have long been calling for a constitution that helps to achieve this. However, we are concerned that the Constitution in its current form will be used to reinforce reforms which are increasing the commercialisation and fragmentation of healthcare.

"The government's proposals miss an opportunity to depoliticise the delivery of healthcare. We would like to see a constitution which reduces the role of politicians and gives health professionals, patients and the public a greater say in the day-to-day running of the NHS.

"The BMA is also pleased that there are measures in the Queen's Speech to reform the coroners system through the proposed Coroners and Justice Bill."

British Medical Asociation

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