Massive fines fears for hospitals

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HOSPITALS and GPs in South Yorkshire face multi-million pound fines if they fail to open up health care in the city to private firms, it is claimed.

Labour warned local health chiefs will need to employ ‘an army of lawyers’ to ensure they do not fall foul of tough new competition rules proposed by the coalition government.

Exorbitant legal costs and hefty fines could even force some GP groups out of business, ministers have been warned.

The claims come as around 400 doctors voted in favour of calling on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to abandon his NHS reforms at an emergency meeting of the British Medical Association.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the Government’s reforms could have ‘irreversible consequences’ and would damage patient care.

The coalition is planning to abolish Primary Care Trusts and allow groups of GP surgeries to decide how £80 billion of the £100bn NHS budget is spent.

The Health and Social Care Bill will force GPs and hospitals to comply with competition rules, which means they must allow private firms and the NHS to compete equally to provide health services.

Labour’s shadow health secretary and Wentworth MP John Healey said groups of GP surgeries or hospitals could be fined as much as 10 per cent of their annual turnover for a single infringement.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “This is about making the NHS accountable for the taxpayers’ money it spends.”