Doctors call for tougher line on privatisation

A grassroots revolt against NHS reforms is growing among GPs. Doctors, alarmed at measures to increase competition and encourage privatisation, are demanding that the British Medical Association adopt a tougher line with the Government.

Motions submitted to an emergency meeting of the BMA to be held in London on 15 March are calling for the association to switch from its policy of "critical engagement" to one of outright opposition. The growing scepticism matches that from think-tanks such as the Kings Fund, the Commons health select committee, health service unions, medical journals including the BMJ and Lancet, and even David Cameron's brother-in-law, a cardiologist in Hampshire.

At a meeting of the BMA's London division, attended by 240 doctors last week, members overwhelmingly backed a motion calling for the BMA to scrap its engagement strategy and conduct a national poll to establish what industrial action members would be prepared to take, short of harming patient care.

Simon Burns, the health minister, who spoke at the meeting, faced catcalls and questions from angry members demanding to know why the Government had not piloted the changes and why they had not been mentioned in the manifesto, according to doctors' magazine, Pulse.

The co-operation of GPs is crucial to the success of the reforms, which will see them take control of 80 per cent of the NHS's £100bn budget. But the BMA has come under increasing pressure since publication of the Health Bill in January which showed the association's objections had been ignored.

Kevin O'Kane, chairman of the BMA's London region, said: "There were 240 professionals at the meeting, seriously concerned about what the Government is doing to the NHS. My personal view is that the legislation is fatally flawed. The introduction of GP commissioning is a fig leaf for privatisation of the NHS."

Similar motions calling on the BMA to harden its stance have been submitted by the north-west and north-east regions of the BMA.

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