Doctors threaten to strike as anger grows over NHS reforms

Poll of 2,000 GPs reveals two-thirds are against cost-cutting plans

Doctors will consider striking against the Government's NHS reforms as opposition to the changes within the medical profession hardens.

The British Medical Association is to hold an emergency meeting next month after its council bowed to grassroots pressure from members angry at its policy of "critical engagement" with the Government over the reforms.

Dr Steve Hajioff, who will chair the meeting as head of the BMA's Representative Body, told the doctors' magazine Pulse: "Absolutely everything about our response and the way we engage could change, with the Bill as a whole and sub-sections. We'll know what members think about competitive tendering, for example, and what they require us to do. That could vary from welcoming something, to doing nothing, to organising a strike ballot. The last is unlikely, but it is possible."

The mood among doctors has darkened in the last month since the Government published its response to the consultation on the White Paper in December, which largely dismissed doctors' criticisms, raising doubts over the BMA's "engagement" strategy.

The threat of outright confrontation grew this week with publication of a poll of almost 2,000 members of the Royal College of GPs showing almost two-thirds opposed the reforms. An earlier survey by the King's Fund, the health policy think-tank, found that fewer than one doctor in four believes the reforms will improve patient care, and regular polls by Pulse have shown opposition rising as more details have emerged. Two leading medical journals entered the fray this week with editorials warning of "damage to patient care" (British Medical Journal), and "the end of the NHS" (Lancet).

The growing unrest will alarm ministers who know that the changes cannot be implemented without the co-operation of doctors. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said on Monday that without modernisation the NHS would become unaffordable. But he admitted that his own brother-in-law, a cardiologist in Basingstoke, had doubts.

The chief area of contention is over what GP leaders describe as the "competition agenda": moves to encourage the private sector to compete to run NHS services – which they say will create a more expensive and inequitable market-based system. They are demanding that ministers scrap moves to force hospitals to compete on price.

Last month, an open letter to the BMA signed by more than 100 GPs and other doctors accused the association of hastening the pace of the reforms and demanded it "engage more with its own membership". It called on its leaders to "mobilise the profession and stop these damaging reforms, which will not only destroy the NHS but also profoundly affect the social fabric of the nation".

Kambiz Boomla, a GP in Tower Hamlets, east London, and one of the signatories, said: "The BMA wants to avoid a damaging split in the profession. But they see the groundswell of opposition building up. I would like to see the BMA mounting a campaign.

"Doctors' personal self-interest is to engage with the reforms. But this is about maintaining equity and public service principles rather than market-based health care which always leads to inequitable provision."

Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPs committee of the BMA, said: "The meeting will provide an opportunity for members to consider all options. I don't expect there to be a focus on strike action – you cannot force the NHS in a particular direction without the engagement of clinicians. But it is too simplistic to say we oppose or support everything. We know the grassroots are angry because the Government doesn't appear to be listening. We want them to listen and respond accordingly."

Health Minister Simon Burns said: "We expected resistance from the BMA over our proposals to create a fair playing field to give patients more choice of provider. They have previously opposed this under successive governments."

Doctors' fears for the NHS

Pace and scale of the reforms

The reforms have not been piloted or tested, and implementing them as the NHS is seeking £20bn of savings is "exceptionally crazy", doctors say.

Privatisation and expansion of the market

Doctors fear allowing private organisations to compete to run services will lead to fragmentation and break-up of the NHS.

Price competition

NHS hospitals will be able to cut prices to attract business in what critics have warned will be a "race to the bottom".

Regulation and governance

A fear shared by doctors and ministers is that the vast reform programme, costing billions of pounds, could still leave the NHS unchanged. Everything will depend on how the NHS Board, Monitor, the economic regulator, and the Care Quality Commission manage the new system.

Education and training

Doctors fear the lack of national oversight will leave it fatally damaged.

Putting GPs in charge of the NHS budget

GPs are being given control of almost £80bn of the NHS budget – but do they have the management expertise, or the motivation, to handle it?

The future of public health

After 35 years, responsibility will be handed back to local authorities. There are fears it will be sacrificed by councils searching for cuts.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam