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Withdraw or rewrite health bill, BMA demands

By Alisdair Stirling

The BMA has issued the Government a list of demands to overhaul the health bill, including changing the role of Monitor and an 'explicit duty' for consortia to include other clinicians in commissioning decisions.

The BMA response to the NHS Future Forum, part of the Government's 'listening exercise', says the health reforms should be scrapped - or failing that massively overhauled - to reflect doctors' 'deep-seated' concerns.

The BMA said members had voiced 'very high levels of concern' which was made worse because change was already underway in spite of the Government's 'pause' in the legislation. The response urged ministers to slow the pace of change and to retain existing NHS structures during the transition. Click here to read the full response from the BMA.

More than four-fifths of almost 1,000 BMA members who contributed their views said their attitude to the reforms was 'mostly or very unwelcoming'.

Just over half identified the powers to be given to NHS economic regulator Monitor to promote competition as the most potentially damaging part of the reforms.

The response calls for Monitor's role to be to promote integrated services and not competition, and an explicit duty on commissioning consortia to fully involve all relevant clinical staff in commissioning.

It also calls for a reinstatement of the Secretary of State's duty to secure the provision of comprehensive healthcare services for patients in England and a new requirement on the NHS Commissioning Board to consult with consortia, where changes affect them, before making use of its powers to ensure an appropriate level of freedom.

Announcing the response, BMA council chair Dr Hamish Meldrum called for the health bill to be 'withdrawn altogether' or otherwise undergo major surgery - removing key sections and shifting emphasis away from 'a fully open market' towards co-operation.

'The message from doctors is clear and simple – the bill must be changed significantly, if not withdrawn altogether, if the NHS is to continue to improve.'

'We are right in the thick of the challenges the NHS faces, and while change is necessary, this major upheaval is not,' said Dr Meldrum.

Click here to read the full response from the BMA.

Dr Hamish Meldrum