Call for restraint ahead of BMA meeting

Groups representing GPs have urged the profession not to vote for all-out opposition to the Health Bill at a BMA special representative meeting in London next week.

Professor Field: GPs should influence the reforms, not issue threats (Photograph: P Hill)
Professor Field: GPs should influence the reforms, not issue threats (Photograph: P Hill)

The emergency meeting, on 15 March, will debate the NHS reforms and shape the BMA's response to the Health Bill. 

GP leaders from the BMA, the NHS Alliance, the Family Doctor Association (FDA) and the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) called for GPs to try to influence the reforms, not block them.

Former RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field, who chairs a DoH stakeholder board that brings together leading GPs, said 'working and talking through issues is far better than standing up and threatening'.

His call comes as momentum against the Health Bill continues to build ahead of the BMA meeting.

A BMA poll last week found widespread opposition to the reforms among doctors. A regional BMA meeting in London last month rejected the Bill 'in its entirety', and some BMA members plan 'days of action' to disrupt the reforms.

Professor Field said GPs who have been calling for clinical commissioning for years are 'feeling pushed to one side'.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said opposing the whole Health Bill would be 'both inept and wrong'. 'GP commissioning is the best opportunity that will ever be given to general practice,' he said.

Last week, under pressure from the BMA, health secretary Andrew Lansley agreed to change the Health Bill so providers cannot compete on price.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the decision showed what talking with government could achieve. 'I ask those who want all-out opposition, what does that mean? We think we have to keep on talking to the government,' he said.

He warned the reforms 'will not go away' if the BMA takes a more aggressive stance.

FDA chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said if GPs do not help implement the reforms 'we will lose all the chances we have to improve services'.

NAPC chairman Dr Johnny Marshall said GPs' concerns will be heard if they 'aim to improve quality'. 'Price competition is a good example - we said we don't want it because it compromises quality,' he said.

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