BMA nears full opposition to reforms

The BMA is moving towards all-out opposition to the Health Bill, despite a DoH bid to shore up support for the reforms by scaling back plans to increase competition in the NHS.

Dr Deborah Colvin: mood at meeting was 'incredibly anti the reforms'
Dr Deborah Colvin: mood at meeting was 'incredibly anti the reforms'

Rising opposition suggests doctors will vote to take action against the Health Bill at the BMA's Special Representative Meeting (SRM) on 15 March.

Doctors at a BMA London Regional Council meeting last week voted to reject the Bill 'in its entirety' and to poll members on 'forms of action' that could be taken to block it. The motions will be debated at the SRM.

The mood at the meeting was 'incredibly anti the reforms', said Dr Deborah Colvin, chairwoman of City and Hackney LMC. Dr Ron Singer, GPC member and president of the Medical Practitioners' Union, said a group of GPs within the BMA is already discussing 'days of action' to disrupt the government's NHS reforms.

NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson wrote to reassure GPs and staff on the most contentious aspect of the reforms - the enforcement of competition law by Monitor.

He wrote that there is 'no question' of providers competing on price despite a new flexibility for providers to offer services at 'below the national tariff rate'. Some areas of the NHS would be exempt from the 'any willing provider' policy, he added.

Rejecting the assurances, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman called for the DoH to draft written amendments to the Bill softening Monitor's power to enforce competition.

The Bill still allows Monitor 'disturbing' powers, including the 'search and arrest' of NHS staff engaging in anti-competitive behaviour, he said.

'It's all very well them saying they have no intention of doing it, but the Health Bill allows them to. If they don't intend to do it, why is it in the Bill?'

Dr Buckman said it was unrealistic to think the BMA could overturn the Bill. I do not believe we will persuade the government to reverse a major plank of its policy. We will have to persuade individual MPs to say "we can't pass parts of this Bill".'

He said GPs in commissioning consortia should continue their work even if doctors vote to oppose the Bill in its entirety next month. The BMA will encourage GPs to commission in a collaborative way if the Bill is passed, he said.'We will have to persuade our colleagues to follow the principles of what the BMA believes, within the law.'

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