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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas