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BMA spokespeople ‘downplayed opposition to health bill’

By Ian Quinn

Senior BMA figures have called for an internal investigation after allegations that the BMA's press office downplayed opposition to the health bill among GPs.

Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham, told a meeting of the BMA London regional branch yesterday that a national newspaper journalist had recently contacted the BMA press office seeking to speak to GPs who disagreed with the plans - but had been informed that the press office was not aware of any opponents of the reforms.

A stream of recent polls, from a range of organisations including the RCGP, have shown significant opposition to the NHS reforms among many GPs, while BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum last week told the House of Commons the bill had encountered widespread scepticism from the profession.

The BMA London regional branch has now called on Dr Meldrum to investigate the incident.

Dr Irvine later told Pulse: ‘The BMA press office should be helping journalists address the issues in this bill and that should reflect the debate that's going on. They can't just say that its BMA policy to support GP commissioning therefore we can't find someone. It's misleading.'

Christine Fielden, head of media relations at the BMA, confirmed that an issue had been raised at the BMA London meeting.

‘We have yet to receive an official complaint. Of course if we do, we will investigate,' she said.

‘At the moment we don't have the actual details, although from our recollection this an inaccurate reflection of what actually happened.'

Yesterday's meeting was held behind closed doors, with the BMA barring all reporters from attending the meeting except for those from its in-house paper, BMA News. It is also understood that plans for a podcast of the meeting were cancelled at the last minute.


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Dr Louise Irvine