Doctors are to consider outright opposition to the Department of Health’s plans for a massive overhaul of the NHS at a special meeting today.
More than 350 doctors and medical students are expected to attend the British Medical Association’s Special Representative Meeting, which was called in response to grassroots’ opposition to the association’s stance of ‘critical engagement’ with the government.
The meeting will include a number of debates that will decide whether the BMA should oppose the Health and Social Care Bill in its entirety and whether the association should look to lead action against it by the medical profession.
The debate comes after health secretary Andrew Lansley hinted that he could ‘amend’ his reforms after delegates at the Liberal Democrat spring conference condemned them as “damaging and unjustified”.
Lansley told the BBC at the weekend that if the government could “clarify and amend in order to reassure people” it would.
Opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill, which includes plans to scrap primary care trusts, give 80% of the NHS budget to GP commissioning consortia, and introduce more competition to the provider sector, has been growing since the government first published its proposals in July.
Since some BMA members expressed unease with their organisation’s stance, the doctor’s union has become increasingly outspoken about some aspects of the reforms, particularly those that might lead to ‘competition’ between hospitals and other providers.
Last week, the BMA issued a statement insisting that the NHS could not be privatised or run like a utility, such as British Gas.
In a reverse on his previous policy, Lansley has now announced that the NHS tariff will not be ammended to encourage competition on price in the health service. However, the BMA meeting still includes a raft of motions on the role of the market and the government’s ‘any willing provider’ policy.
The BMA’s SRM will also hear claims that the government has misused data to denigrate the NHS and that the Health Bill will lead to worse outcomes “as a result of fragmentation and competition."
The BMA’s Bristol Division has condemned what it describes as the “cynical and misleading” use of statistics by Lansley and colleagues.
Its motion adds: “With patient satisfaction at record levels; death rates from myocardial infarction falling at the fastest rate in any European country; ten years of improvement in mortality from almost all cancers, and rates of both MRSA and Clostridium difficile also falling steeply, radical reform of the NHS is not necessary and risks derailing a decade of improved health outcomes.”
The meeting will hear calls for the health secretary to abandon his reorganisations of the NHS, withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill and adopt an approach of “evolution not revolution” regarding changes to the NHS in England.
The BMA has already written to the health secretary to express its concerns about the risks to patient confidentiality in the DH’s proposals and its concerns will be voiced again at the SRM today.
The Welsh Council of the BMA has submitted a motion deploring the “lack of protection” to identifiable patients’ data including patient records in the Bill and Edgware and Hendon division has said it is deeply worried by the lack of information governance safeguards in the Bill.
Further debates will focus on specific issues related to commissioning consortia, education and workforce and the future of public health.
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