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NHS Confederation Conference: NHS chief exec resists signing BMA anti-polyclinic petition

By Steve Nowottny

1,236,085 patients may have signed the BMA's ‘Support Your Surgery against the imposition of polyclinics and privatisation of primary care – but details have emerged of at least one that got away.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson told managers at the NHS Confederation conference how one enterprising receptionist at a North Yorkshire practice had asked him to sign the petition as he was registering as a new patient after moving house.

‘I know this is an unusual experience for people,' he said to laughter among delegates, ‘but I had an altercation with the receptionist.'

‘She asked me to sign a petition against Darzi centres. I told her I wasn't very keen on that. I said what evidence have you got that they're going to close your practice?

‘She said oh, Dr So and So said - and he always tells the truth.'

Earlier this month ministers responded furiously to the BMA's ‘misleading and mendacious' campaign, claiming they had ‘widespread anecdotal evidence of patients feeling pressurised to sign the petition as well as practices telling their patients blatant inaccuracies about local plans.'

Mr Nicholson's anecdote is the first reported example of such an incident. However, despite describing the episode as ‘probably the most dangerous thing I've done over the last few years', he is understood to have resisted feeling pressurised and declined to sign the petition.

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