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BMA calls for health bill to be withdrawn

By Ian Quinn

The BMA is to call on health secretary Andrew Lansley to withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill, after representatives ignored warnings by their leader that it would be impractical.

In the first significant policy move at today's Special Representative Meeting, a motion was passed calling on the Government to ‘call a halt to the proposed top down reoganisation of the NHS'.

Representives voted overhwelmingly for the legislation to be withdrawn and called on the Government to ‘consider and act on the criticisms and advice from the medical profession.'

The vote, which caused a split between council members and grassroots representatives, showed how divided the BMA is over how it should respond to the health bill, with BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum having earlier warned representatives not to ‘tie the hands' of negotiators.

However, Dr Andy Thornley said it was too late for the bill to be amended sufficiently to reflect doctors' concerns.

‘The Government hasn't listened to our concerns,' he said. ‘I don't think it's possible for them to tinker with the bill, to tweak it to make it better.'

‘Mr Lansley: apologise, admit your mistake and withdraw your bill.'

BMA council member Dr Jonathan Fielden warned that the BMA risked ‘winning a battle but losing the war' in insisting the bill was withdrawn.

However Dr Ian Banks said the BMA could no longer go on being ignored.

‘If someone tries to strangle you there's only so long you can say would you mind only using one hand or would you mind using a breath freshener because your breath is making me sick. At some point you are going to have to give them the old Glasgow kiss.'

Later the meeting will hear further votes on whether it should dump its policy of ‘critical engagement' with the Government but those who are campaigning for a hardline approach will see this motion as an early victory.

Dr Meldrum said he believed the practicalities of the BMA achieving its new policy might be ‘fairly remote'.

A Department of Health spokesman said they were 'disappointed' in the results of the vote.

'The BMA's own survey shows their position is not representative of many of their members, who are keen to be involved in our proposals. The reality is over 5,000 GP practices, covering two thirds of the country, have already signed up and have started to implement plans to give patients better care,' he said.

BMA delegates are in central London to debate the Government's NHS reforms BMA delegates are in central London to debate the Government's NHS reforms Dr Steve Hajioff gives his reaction

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