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BMA members call for poll on industrial action to block health bill

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: A regional meeting of the BMA has voted in favour of the organisation polling its members on whether to take industrial action to halt the Government's health bill, Pulse can reveal.

A meeting of the BMA London regional division yesterday saw more than 80% of an estimated 250-strong gathering back a motion calling for the BMA to survey its members before next month's crucial Special Representative Meeting, where the BMA's stance on the health bill will be debated.

And the motion asks for members to be surveyed on all 'forms of action' the BMA could take to prevent implementation of the health bill, which specifically includes whether they should consider industrial action, Pulse understands.

Similar demands have been put forward from several other sections of the BMA, with GPs and doctors in favour of direct action stressing that any plans should be geared to avoid patients' suffering.

Pulse can reveal that some BMA Council members are planning to table action against the Government's plans at a council meeting scheduled to take place the day after the 15 March Special Representative Meeting, even if the meeting fails to draw up specific plans.

One insider said: ‘We have to draw up a plan B. The Government has shown it is is simply ignoring opposition to the bill and we have to do something to stop it.'

Pulse reported earlier this month that the BMA had said it would put ‘absolutely everything' on the table when it determines the association's strategy to the reforms at the SRM, but it has yet to confirm which motions will be discussed.

Among dozens of GPs at the BMA London meeting yesterday, it is understood not a single hand was raised when they were asked if they supported the bill.

Health minister Simon Burns was also confronted by one questioner about a Pulse survey in January showing 60% of GPs involved in first wave of pathfinder consortia were opposed to the profession taking on commissioning.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said today: ‘The Tory-led Government is losing ground on its big NHS reorganisation. The more people see of their plans, the less they like or trust them.'

‘Most GPs don't want the changes, and four in five don't believe patient care will improve as a result.'

But a DH spokesperson said:‘We expected some opposition to our modernisation plans from the unions. The BMA have historically opposed giving patients a choice of voluntary, independent and public sector services. But it is not in the interests of patients to bow to their demands.

‘Modernising our NHS is vital if we want to improve patient care. For many years, clinicians have said they want to be given more opportunity to lead service design and delivery. And that's exactly what our reforms will enable.'

The BMA last month revealed it had commissioned Ipsos Mori to poll 20,000 members on their views on the health bill, but has refused to give details of the questions they will be asked.


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BMA members call for poll on industrial action Motions agreed by BMA London

We call on Council to move from a policy of 'critical engagement' with the Health and Social Care Bill to total opposition.

We also call on Council to poll all BMA members between now and ARM about forms of action which they would in engage in to prevent the implementation of this legislation.