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BMA survey reveals huge scepticism towards health bill

By Ian Quinn

A major BMA survey of around 20,000 doctors has found widespread scepticism towards the Government's health bill and plans for GP commissioning, MPs have been told.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum told the House of Commons yesterday that the survey of the profession, conducted by pollster Ipsos Mori, has shot down ministers' claims that there was 'overwhelming enthusiasm' for the reforms.

The BMA launched the survey of GPs and other doctors last month amid signs of growing opposition within the profession to the reforms. The BMA Council has also called a Special Representative Meeting which will next month decide whether the association will alter its existing policy of ‘critical engagement'.

Giving evidence to MPs at the committee stage of the Health and Social Care Bill, Dr Meldrum said: ‘We are conducting a large survey of about 20,000 - not just GPs - and the evidence emerging is what we picked up generally at meetings and other times.'

‘There are some enthusiasts and some total rejectionists. There is also a very large group - probably about 70% or so - who are pretty sceptical and pretty pragmatic.'

‘They have now been through three or four NHS changes and realise that it is probably best to try and do what they can, rather than be left behind. But I would reject the idea that there is an overwhelming enthusiasm for this just because a lot of people have put themselves forward as pathfinders.'

The BMA has refused to disclose the questions GPs and other doctors are being asked as part of its survey.

An RCGP poll of more than 1,800 GPs published earlier this month found that more than 60% of GPs are against the 'general direction' of the reforms, a finding strongly echoing Pulse's tracker polls which have shown a falling away of support since the Government launched the white paper last summer.

Later in the session, RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada told the Commons the vast majority of GPs opposed the proposals but were going along with them because otherwise patients would be 'stuck in the middle'

'They are getting in there and they are getting stuck in. My work partner spent the whole of Sunday reading documents to prepare himself and to skill himself up.'

'If you translate that into, "We're really enthusiastic about it", then I think that the answer to that is, "No". It is not, "Great, yet another reorganisation. Great, we can sit at some more meetings on a cold Thursday evening".'

'We have to do this. PCTs at the moment are losing staff in quite considerable droves. PCTs themselves are the main vehicle for getting pathfinders together and setting up the infrastructure, and the local medical committees are getting the elections sorted out. So this is a process that has to happen, it is going to happen and therefore we have to get involved.'

'If you ask me what my members say, all I can say is what they talk to me about, and 70% of the people who responded to the survey either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the direction of travel of the reforms.'

She added: 'I am not very old myself and I have now been through four major reorganisations: health authorities; primary care groups; primary care trusts, and practice-based commissioning. Now there is this one. And do you know what? We know, we absolutely know, that as day follows night there will be another reorganisation in about three or four years' time. But we will get on with it, because we have to make it work. We cannot have patients in the middle of this not being provided with a service.'

BMA survey: showing huge specticism towards the NHS health reforms BMA survey: showing huge specticism towards the NHS health reforms