Doctors have called on the government to put a halt to the top down reorganisation of the NHS in England at a special BMA meeting.
Delegates at the Special Representatives Meeting overwhelmingly supported a motion which said current plans for reform are too extreme and rushed and will negatively impact on patient care.
They called on the health secretary to withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill, act on the criticisms and advice from the medical profession collected during the White Paper consultation, and adopt an approach of evolution not revolution regarding change.
The Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, devolves commissioning responsibility to GPs, scraps PCTs and SHAs and paves the way for increased competition in healthcare provision.
The meeting – the first of its kind for nearly 20 years – was called by the BMA leadership after the union’s approach of ‘critical engagement’ was questioned by the grass root members.
The supported motion said the Health Bill needed withdrawing so that the controversial and more radical elements of the legislation can be considered again.
Dr Andy Thornley, of the BMA junior doctors committee, who tabled the motion, said the reforms were an “enormous mistake”. He said it was no longer possible to “tweak the Bill” and instead called on the government to withdraw it.
However, more provocative motions calling for total opposition to the Health Bill and a vote of no confidence in the health secretary were not carried.
Dr Jacky Davis, BMA council member and co-chair of the NHSCA, who received a standing ovation for her talk, warned that the government was unlikely to make the amendments proposed at the meeting (over 130) and would not compromise on the issue of competition.
She said: “Kill the Bill – not the NHS. This is an opportunity to reject legislation that has been undemocratically imposed on us. It’s an opportunity that will not come again.”
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of BMA Council, put up a strong argument for why the leadership’s approach of ‘critical engagement’ was justified. He argued against a policy of outright opposition: “Please do not tie our negotiating hands. Do not stop us supporting doctors who have to deal with what this Bill might do.”
Fifty four per cent of the 380 delegates voted against total opposition to the Bill, but there was strong support for the BMA to publicise and oppose the damaging elements of the Bill, which was part of the same motion.
The meeting comes after Liberal Democrat delegates rejected the reforms at the party’s spring conference, with members voting not to support the “damaging and unjustified” reforms.
Downing Street was quick to say there will be no further changes to the government’s NHS proposals.
Read more on the one amendment to the Health Bill.