Two senior members of the Royal College of GPs have expressed concern that its public opposition to the Government's health Bill was not approved by the organisation's governing council.
The RCGP called for ministers to abandon the Health and Social Care Bill in January after an online survey of the college's 44,000 members.
But two members of the RCGP Council have privately expressed concern that the poll, conducted by the online research company Survey Monkey, was completed by only 3,000 GPs and was never voted on by the college's full leadership. They said that while most GPs did have concerns about the health reforms, many were uneasy at the college's strident opposition to the Government. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of a backlash.
One said: "Some GPs are very opposed to the Bill but a lot of others believe we've just got to get on and make this work and it is unhelpful for the college to take such a political stance."
Another said: "A motion went to Council but it was decided not to discuss it because it had not been submitted in time. Instead of it being put to a full vote at a later meeting we have gone ahead and called for the Bill to be dropped on the basis of an online poll. We are a charity and I think we should have been much more careful before getting so politically involved."
In the survey members were asked if the college should proceed with calling for the withdrawal of the Bill even if it did not receive the support of other medical colleges; 1,760 members said yes, 41 said no, 96 expressed no opinion and 1,223 skipped the question.
The RCGP said it had "constantly engaged" with the Council and its membership as the Health and Social Care Bill progressed through Parliament.
In a statement yesterday it said: "Dr [Clare] Gerada, the Council chair, wrote to RCGP Council, summarising the consistent position the College has taken on the health reforms since September 2010 and seeking advice on the College's future stance and direction. She suggested surveying the entire membership for a third time to gauge opinion. This included the possibility of calling for the Bill to be withdrawn.
"Dr Gerada received overwhelming support from individual Council members for this way forward and the College membership was surveyed between 23 December 2011 and 6 January 2012.
"Following the results of the survey and a discussion with the senior Officers and the full Executive Committe in January 2012, the RCGP decided to call for the Bill to be withdrawn."