On 15 March the British Medical Association (BMA) held a special representative meeting for the first time in 19 years. It did so to draw the attention of the profession and the country to the Health Bill currently before parliament.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, the Chair of the BMA council, described the Bill as “… the same basic ideology – of competition and choice – that the previous Labour administrations believed would reform public services, but it goes much further, much faster, with no heed to the massive risks it brings to all that is good about one of the best health systems in the world.”
He then went on to tell the meeting why the BMA had called the special meeting, stating: “Our position has hardened and intensified further since publication of the Bill, partly because the government showed little sign of listening to us – or anyone else really, regardless of how vehemently or how completely we criticised it. But also because the legislation is massively permissive and, in many parts, ambiguously drafted – opening the door to even more radical consequences and greater contradictions than the original proposals.”
The special representative meeting called on the Secretary of State to withdraw the Bill, laying to rest any government claims that their attack on the NHS has the “support” of the medical profession. The next day the BMA council agreed to step up its campaign against the Bill and in particular to highlight the destructive role that competition and in particular Monitor – as the economic regulator – will play in planning and running health care.
Meldrum said, “Ministers can no longer continue to cite the often reluctant and pragmatic decision by GPs to get involved in commissioning groups as endorsement of their NHS reforms. Following yesterday’s SRM, the government should not be left in any doubt about the strength of feeling among the medical profession.”