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BMA to fight on after MPs pass health bill

Exclusive The BMA has vowed to step up its lobbying of peers to try to derail the health bill in the House of Lords, after MPs voted in favour of the Government's controversial NHS reforms last night.

The Health and Social Care Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons by 316 votes to 251. A rumoured Liberal Democrat rebellion over the reforms failed to materialise, with just four of the party's MPs voting against the bill.

The result means the bill will be debated in the Lords next month.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair, told Pulse the BMA will now lobby peers from all parties to persuade them to scrap the ‘faulty' bill, warning that the reforms offer private providers ‘far too many opportunities to take over huge chunks of the NHS.'

Dr Buckman said: ‘We were disappointed but not surprised at the lack of Lib Dem opposition in yesterday's vote but I have more faith in the House of Lords to properly address the issues in this bill.'

‘We will be lobbying lords and meeting lords of all political parties to persuade them that this bill is so faulty that it needs to be withdrawn. If they can't cope with that then we certainly want some pretty hefty modifications to it.'

‘The idea of clinically led commissioning might be a great opportunity for doctors to improve the health service but this bill does not deliver that. These are overly bureaucratic, expensive reforms.'

Hours before yesterday's health bill vote the Prime Minister claimed that the Government's revisions to the bill, following its ‘listening exercise', had won over the health profession. Yet the PM faced embarrassment after his claims were swiftly disputed by the RCGP, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Nursing, who all said they still had worries over the reforms.

Dr Buckman said doctors did not support the bill, and said the Government's listening exercise had failed to allay the BMA's fears over the reforms.

He said: ‘The pause made some useful changes but it also made an awful lot more changes that made things harder to deliver. We are concerned about the failure to impose a cap on private practice in NHS hospitals. Foundation trusts will chase after private business to the detriment of their NHS patients.'

Yesterday, health minister Lord Howe said that the health bill would ‘present big opportunities' for the private sector to take over parts of NHS care.

Speaking at the Independent Healthcare Forum, he said: ‘There will be big opportunities for the private sector here and it must be done on merit and the quality of the support provided.'