BMA tells DoH to 'put up or shut up'

Exchange of letters between minister and BMA reveals depth of mistrust and anger.

Dr Hamish Meldrum
Dr Hamish Meldrum

The BMA has told the DoH to put up or shut up over allegations that GPs have pressurised patients into signing the petition in support of NHS general practice.

The latest ructions between the BMA and DoH follow claims by health minister Ben Bradshaw that some of the 1.2 mil lion people who signed the 'Support NHS General Practice' petition delivered to Number 10 last week were 'pressurised' into doing so, and told 'blatant inaccuracies' about local plans.

Mr Bradshaw wrote to BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum urging him to join him in condemning such action.

But in a letter responding to the minister, Dr Meldrum wrote that, while he would condemn this behaviour, he had yet to see any proof of it.

'I note that you say that you have widespread anecdotal evidence of patients feeling pressurised into signing the petition and that you have referred to this in the media,' he wrote. 'It would be helpful if you could share this evidence with us.'

In his letter, Mr Bradshaw also said: 'We are very concerned by the inaccurate and misleading statements being made by the BMA as part of your current campaign against the government's primary care policy.'

He went on to criticise the BMA for its stance on the extra £250 million the DoH has pledged for primary care.

Dr Meldrum's reply said the BMA would rather this funding was spent on existing services.

In a nod to the growing tensions between the BMA and DoH, Dr Meldrum wrote: 'I am sorry that relationships appear to have reached the point where we have to have an exchange of letters of this nature.

'Had you been at the GPs' annual conference ... you would have heard the many heartfelt expressions of support for the NHS and its principles, and for our patients.'

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said Mr Bradshaw's attack would have no effect on the BMA campaign.

'We are working on the next stage,' he said. This will look at the impact of polyclinics: 'Who does it, where they are, what they cost and which practices will be affected,' he said.

'I hope GPs feel that somebody is standing up for them, but they've also got to stand up for themselves.'

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