The British Medical Association today launched its Special Representative Meeting to debate the NHS reforms in England.
The meeting, which started with a minute’s silence for the victims of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, saw Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of Council make a rousing speech opposing the Health and Social Care Bill.
“I do not support this bill, the profession does not support this bill, the BMA does not support this bill,” he said to rapturous applause.
He warned the representatives that the proposed changes could have ‘irreversible consequences’ for the NHS and how care is delivered to patients and he described the policies within the bill as ‘flawed’ and ‘ill-conceived’.
“Whatever our individual views are, this is not about particular sectional interests or high-profile personalities – it’s about flawed, ill-conceived polices and it is those that we must attack,” he said.
“Apart from the dangers to the NHS in England, there are dangers to our profession and to the BMA, if we create unnecessary or avoidable divisions, within branches of practice, between branches of practice, even between the four nations of the UK.”
And he called for unity.
“We are at our strongest when we are united. Playing into the hands of those who seek to divide and rule will only make our task of opposing - what we all agree are the most damaging aspects of the government’s reforms - more difficult.”
Dr Meldrum’s call for unity is not surprising given that some grassroots GPs had criticised the BMA for its policy of ‘critical engagement’ with the reforms, suggesting instead that it should adopt a stance of outright opposition.
Today’s meeting sees hundreds of GPs convening in central London to debate the BMA’s response to the reforms. It’s the first Special Representative Meeting for 19 years.
Among the motions on the agenda include calls for industrial action and a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
The majority of the motions criticise the pace and extent of the reforms and warn that the NHS should not be run like a utility company.