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BMA lobbies peers to ‘significantly amend or withdraw’ health bill

The BMA has written to peers calling on them to reject or ‘significantly amend' the health bill, ahead of the legislation being debated in the Lords next week.

IIn a letter to peers Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair and a GP in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, warned that the bill ‘poses an unacceptably high risk to the NHS' and threatens to stifle integrated care.
Dr Meldrum identifies three ‘pressing concerns' around the legislation – the secretary of state's duty to provide a comprehensive health service; the compatibility of patient choice and integrated care; and concerns over the ‘failure regime' for providers.

In the letter Dr Meldrum states: ‘On balance, the BMA still believes the bill poses an unacceptably high risk to the NHS in England.'

'Government health policy, implemented both through and beyond the bill, will make it harder to create the seamless, efficient care that everyone agrees is key to future sustainability.'

‘The BMA continues to call for the bill to be withdrawn or, at least, to be subject to further significant amendments.'

By including the possibility of amendments to the bill rather than telling peers to scrap the bill, Dr Meldrum is maintaining his ‘critical engagement' strategy in opposing the health bill despite criticism from BMA members last month.

Pulse revealed last month that BMA London members voted to censure the BMA chair for failing to effectively campaign for the withdrawal of the bill. In the wake of  the fierce grassroots opposition, the BMA Council rallied round its embattled chair and passed a ‘vote of confidence' in Dr Meldrum's leadership.  

In full: the BMA's ‘three pressing concerns' on the health bill:

  • The need for an explicit provision that the Secretary of State retains ultimate responsibility for the provision of a comprehensive health service, even if and when day-to-day, operational independence for the delivery of health care has been given to the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
  • The need to ensure that increasing patient choice of provider for specific elements of a care pathway is not regarded as a higher priority than developing integrated services and ensuring equitable access to care. This would go some way to ameliorating the very real risks of service fragmentation created by the roll out of the Government's ‘Any Qualified Provider' policy.
  • The need for further scrutiny of planned changes to the provider ‘failure regime' – while the BMA welcomes amendments made at the end of the Commons' stage of the Bill to replace plans for a private sector insolvency approach with a modified version of the existing arrangements, there is little sense of what might be expected in the detail now due to be developed by Monitor as guidance.
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