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BMA to debate legal action over health bill

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: The BMA is under pressure to take legal action against the Government to block its controversial NHS reforms, Pulse has learned.

A motion submitted to next month’s Special Representative Meeting calls on the BMA to ‘investigate the legality of the Government’s action in implementing significant parts of the Health and Social Care bill ahead of its ratification by Parliament, and then to take any appropriate legal action’.

The motion, from the BMA’s City and Hackney division, also calls on the BMA to oppose the bill in its entirety ‘as the coalition Government has no authority to enact it’.

Dr Jonathon Tomlinson, a GP in Hoxton, east London, said: ‘It´s absurd that the Government is able to push ahead with the reforms when the bill hasn’t been approved by Parliament – particularly with the pathfinder schemes. And if it turns out there is no legal case to be answered, that in turn raises serious questions about the whole process.’

Public sector union Unison launched a legal challenge to the health white paper last August over health secretary Andrew Lansley´s ‘refusal’ to consult with the public on the proposals. However the union failed to win a judicial review in October after Justice Mitting ruled that the court could not place a legal demand on the Government to consult the public, patients or staff over its plans.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said there seemed to be an element of ‘let’s get on with it and we´ll see you right in the end’ with the way the Government was conducting the transition period. He added: ‘But you´ve got to legislate so it´s legal for GPs to do it. Anyone who´s a pathfinder needs to be absolutely sure that what they are doing is legal.’

A spokesperson for the BMA said all motions submitted for the SRM would be considered by the meeting’s agenda committee. The agenda will be published during the week preceding the 15 March meeting, she said.

Dr Peter Holden