The BMA has come under fire for outsourcing its members’ phone support to a subsidiary of service giant Serco at the same time as campaigning against greater private involvement in the NHS.
A GP campaigning for election to BMA Council claimed the deal undermined the organisation’s anti-commercialisation stance, particularly as Serco is among those companies competing to run NHS services.
The Listening Company, a subsidiary of Serco, provides initial telephone advice to BMA members although more complex cases are then referred directly to the BMA.
Dr Helena McKeown, a member of BMA Council standing for re-election, raised the issue in her candidate statement, writing: ‘I believe your employment advice should be provided by the BMA, not a Serco subsidiary.’
Dr McKeown, a GP in Salisbury, admitted asking the BMA to take the service in-house would come at a cost, but would be worth it to avoid using a company that was part of the agenda it was campaigning against.
She said: ‘Industrial advice is the main thing I pay my BMA subs for. So I think it’s worth spending proportionally more of my BMA subs making sure we get this from the BMA. That has a cost. But for me it’s a point of principle.’
Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham, south-east London who is also standing for election to BMA Council, said: ‘I was shocked to hear about BMA outsourcing services to Serco. I had no idea.’
‘I would not want any of my BMA membership fees going towards an organisation like that.’
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘This system allows the BMA to identify queries that can be dealt with quickly and efficiently or those that require detailed and potentially longer-term advice and support from a locally based expert adviser. The BMA’s local advisers are employed directly by the BMA.’
‘The contract with the Listening Company is tightly monitored by the BMA and provides a very good service to our members.’
The Listening Network and Serco were not available for comment.
What other candidates are standing for
Dr Robert Morley
Reversing the erosion of our professionalism
Dr David Bailey
Fair pensions and independent training for all doctors
Dr Beth McCarron-Nash
Taking the lead effectively on the issues that really matter to you
Dr Deborah Colvin
Against any erosion of patients’ and doctors’ rights
Full list of candidates here