Doctors demand withdrawal of Health Bill

Doctors at the BMA special representative meeting in London on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of the Health Bill, but stopped short of all-out opposition to the reforms.

A motion calling for a vote of no confidence in health secretary Andrew Lansley was also rejected by the conference.

Representatives passed a motion which called for the Bill to be withdrawn in its current form, and for the government to shift to a more evolutionary approach to NHS reform.

They voted against a motion calling for the BMA to oppose the Bill in its entirety, but an overwhelming majority backed a call for the BMA to oppose the damaging elements of the Bill.

Dr Jacky Davis, a member of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign and a consultant in Islington warned that the Bill would ‘destroy the NHS’ and was the ‘final step in the road of the privatisation of the NHS’.
She argued that rejecting the Bill in its entirety was the only option as politicians were not listening to the profession.

‘This opportunity will not come again, we have the power, mandate and moral responsibility to oppose this Bill,’ she told the conference.

Krishna Sivakumaran, a member of the BMA medical student committee, echoed her view.  ‘The government will force this Bill through,’ he said. ‘They will do what they have done for last six months, they will ignore doctors. We need to send the message that they cannot ignore us.’

But Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage warned that a complete rejection of the Bill would leave GPs ‘disempowered’ and the NHS would ‘still be stuck with poor quality management, PCTs and SHAs’.

‘I don’t buy it that we won’t be able to make significant amendments to the Bill,’ she said. ‘It has to go through a process and it has to go through the House of Lords. We can make changes to this Bill.’

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum also said a wholesale rejection of the Bill ‘sends out the very wrong message’.

He said: ‘If you are saying you oppose it in its entirety you are asking me to put all our negotiating eggs in one high-risk strategy basket. That it is a very dangerous move to make.

‘Please do not tie our negotiating hands. Do not stop me negotiating and bullying to try and get parts of this Bill changed.’

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