Legal fears over BMA's anti-privatisation pledge card

The BMA could be forced to drop plans for a 'patient pledge card' to limit private sector involvement in the NHS after lawyers warned it could leave GPs facing legal action.

Dr George Rae: BMA supports pledge card plan in principle
Dr George Rae: BMA supports pledge card plan in principle

Lawyers are understood to have warned the BMA that GPs could be open to legal action if they handed out pledge cards inviting patients to opt out of being referred to privately run services.

BMA members had hoped the cards would empower clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to stop purchasing services from private providers.

But a BMA council member who asked not to be named said that yesterday's council meeting was presented with the legal advice. The council member said: ‘If GPs are members of CCGs and it appeared that they were skewing patient choice, they could potentially be open to legal challenges from private companies.’

Another council member, who also asked not to be named, revealed the policy would now be dropped, at least in its current form. ‘The council accepted that legal advice and it is not going ahead,’ the member said.

BMA council member and Whitley Bay GP Dr George Rae said: ‘We are doctors, not lawyers, so we have to make sure our policies are watertight. We were alerted to the potential dangers which include the competition law and other legal issues which could land on the doorstep of GP practices.

'You cannot put your membership at risk but the BMA can look at alternative approaches. The pledge card is something we support in principle. What the BMA council is doing is looking at alternatives. This year’s BMA annual representative meeting in June instructed the BMA to keep campaigning against the Health and Social Care Act.’

BMA council member and south London GP Dr Louise Irvine, who missed the meeting because she was ill, said: ‘I am disappointed because I had hoped we could find a way round it that is legally acceptable.’

In an interview with GP earlier this month BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said the association was still 'looking at a variety of things' to show its opposition to the Health Act, including the pledge card proposal to raise awareness of the 'increasing commercial penetration of the NHS'.

A BMA spokesman said: ‘Although the principles and motivations behind the pledge card idea were supported at BMA Council, there were concerns about some elements of the practicalities. Council decided to explore alternative strategies that enable these principles to be pursued as part of planned activities to inform and engage the public in tackling the many damaging aspects of the government's NHS reforms.’

The DH widened the scope of its any qualified provider (AQP) policy to 39 service areas last month, meaning that private and voluntary providers can apply to go on an approved list for patients to choose from.

Providers will only be able to be refused by commissioners if they reject the price offered, refuse to agree to local standards or to comply with pathways and referral thresholds, or if they fail quality standards.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Pension tax solution for judges shows government could do more for doctors, says BMA

Pension tax solution for judges shows government could do more for doctors, says BMA

Government plans to 'effectively exempt judges from pension tax' show the government...

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK are playing a leading role in the largest-ever NHS vaccination...

Second-phase COVID-19 vaccine rollout maintains prioritisation by age

Second-phase COVID-19 vaccine rollout maintains prioritisation by age

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published advice on...

PCNs paid £70m for first-wave COVID-19 jab campaign as NHS plots next phase of rollout

PCNs paid £70m for first-wave COVID-19 jab campaign as NHS plots next phase of rollout

Primary care network (PCN) COVID-19 vaccination sites have been paid £70m this month...

London GP personally calling at-risk patients to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake

London GP personally calling at-risk patients to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake

London GP Dr Farzana Hussain is personally telephoning scores of patients who have...

Half of patients with possible cancer symptoms avoided contacting GP in first wave

Half of patients with possible cancer symptoms avoided contacting GP in first wave

Almost half of people who experienced potential cancer symptoms in the first wave...