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Independents' Day

BMA debates plan to lead mass patient opt-out from privately provided NHS care

Exclusive: The BMA is considering leading a mass patient opt-out from privately-run NHS services as part of the next phase of its campaign to fight the NHS reforms, Pulse can reveal.

BMA Council has agreed to explore a plan to produce and promote ‘patient pledge’ cards, which would allow patients to ask their GP to refer them only to publicly-run NHS services, providing the quality of their care would not be compromised.

The scheme, based on an existing Keep Our NHS Public campaign and designed to sabotage the Government’s competition agenda, could see GPs coding patients’ wishes to be treated by NHS providers into their medical records.

BMA Council, which appears to have dropped plans to debate a full-scale boycott of commissioning, endorsed a motion agreeing in principle to explore the ‘patient pledge’ idea at its last meeting, and is set to make a final decision at its next meeting in November.

In the meantime, the GPC has been asked to consider the practicalities of the plan, including whether GPs should record patients’ preferences in their records or whether patients themselves would hold cards as with the organ donor card.

The GPC will also consider how the cards could be distributed, with GPs likely to be asked to hand them to patients in their practices.

Dr Clive Peedell, the BMA council member and co-chair of the NHS Consultants’ Association who proposed the motion at the last BMA Council meeting, said: ‘The card is designed to scare off healthcare investors. We need to send the strongest possible message that we don’t want our health service to be privatised.’

Dr Louise Irvine, a BMA Council member and GP in Lewisham, south-east London, who seconded Dr Peedell’s motion, said: ‘The card would take forward the BMA policy of campaigning against the Health and Social Care Act, in particular raising public awareness of the damaging effects of privatisation on NHS services.’

But others on BMA Council urged caution. Dr Peter Holden, who is also a GPC negotiator, warned the campaign was ‘overtly political’ and said: ‘We need to know a lot more details about this. We have to retain a relationship with our patients for 40 years.’

Dr Coral Jones, a GP in Hackney, east London, who already offers Keep Our NHS Public pledge cards at her surgery, said: ‘Patients are keen. We have had around 20 who have dropped it in and asked for it to be put in their notes.’

Ben Troke, partner at Browne Jacobson LLP solicitors, said: ‘There’s no competition law obligation on patients as such not to exclude private providers. But I would be concerned about asking a patient now to rule out a number of their options, in advance and out of hand.’

Readers' comments (31)

  • Vinci Ho

    Interesting move
    But one has to very carefully list the advantages vs disadvantages and weigh against each other.
    Last thing out of all , BMA is accused of breaking the law or is it just challenging the boundary of the law(the Bill) with the help from people(patients).......

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  • Vinci Ho

    One can argue when you give patients 'choice' . Choice can involve various aspects including previous experiences , locality , perceived waiting time BUT ALSO political preferences
    All views are welcome........

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  • Bornjovial

    Sounds good in theory, but if you read Daily Mail people want MORE private sector input and choice. Daily Mail will see it as BMA memebers trying to protect their turf and may actually be anti competition!
    Second lots of services now have only private option!
    Many if not most OOH providers are private companies-does that mean a BMA representative will see patients Out of Hours if they fall ill.
    Also just because you and I think a publicly funded healthcare is the best it doesnt mean it actually is!
    To all the well meaning BMA members, this will be seen as far worse plug in for ourselves than the fizzled out strike for Pensions.

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  • GPs have GMS contracts with the NHS - (increasingly few have PMS). Other providers have APMS contracts with the NHS. Is this really asking for a boycot of non-GMS contracters - effectively promoting a GMS monopoly?

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  • Easy to make a political stand when you are not in pain, debilitated, unable to work, or suffering.

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  • Of course, technically, this includes the vast majority of GP's by virtue of our independent contractor status.

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  • A GMS contract holder as a private partnership is therefore a private body - or is that a different kind of private - as another contributor has commented, this proposition is trying to create a cartel of GMS contract holders

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  • This is great. We should be doing this. The Act is unpopular and we need to keep up the pressure for its repeal.

    It is confusing to talk about GMS or PMS practices being private providers. Our GP contracts do not cream off NHS money to external shareholders with no personal stake in the service provided.

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  • Why doesn't the BMA (as our union) focus on our terms and conditions and issues such as pensions and salaries?

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  • Shows how clueless BMA is really.

    Majority of my patients are not bothered what kind of contract their health care provider holds. Infact when we had a local agreement with Spire, many were asking to be sent there - private rooms, better staffed, courteous manner from reception to nurses, no newly qualified juniors and guaranteed review by the consultants.

    Compared that to my local DGH who offers outdated investigation (ETT for chest pain anyone?), long waiting list and charged car park!

    What really surprises me is BMA thinks this is a good idea. I assume its the same boffins who came up with one day "strike but not really a strike" action.

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