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BMA representatives gather to debate profession’s response to NHS reforms

By Steve Nowottny

Hundreds of GP leaders and other doctors are convening in central London today to debate the BMA’s response to the Government’s NHS reforms, at the body’s first Special Representative Meeting for 19 years.

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BMA grassroots representatives will debate a range of possible responses to the Health and Social Care Bill, with a string of motions calling for industrial action and a vote of no confidence in health secretary Andrew Lansley on the agenda.

The meeting will also consider whether the BMA should alter its policy of ‘critical engagement’ with the reforms, and may instruct the BMA’s leadership to instead adopt a stance of outright opposition to the health bill.

The BMA Council bowed to grassroots pressure and called the Special Representative Meeting at the end of January at the third time of asking, after twice previously rejecting calls from its members who opposed the bill. But speaking ahead of the meeting, BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum denied the BMA leadership had been slow to listen to its membership’s concerns.

He told the BBC: ‘This was a decision taken by BMA Council, by the leadership, because we thought the time is right. We are always listening, and this is another way of ratcheting up our concerns about the Government’s proposals.

‘We do want to hear from [our members], we want to hear what they think, and we want to put more pressure on the Government to change what we think are very flawed and risky proposals for the NHS.’

He added: ‘I’m a realist, and the likelihood of completely getting rid of the health bill is very remote. But it’s not too late to change. This is high risk strategy that the Government is undertaking. They keep saying they want to listen to us, to health professionals – well, please listen to us.’

BMA members are gathering in central London to discuss the NHS reforms BMA members are gathering in central London to discuss the NHS reforms Live coverage

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