BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum is facing an unprecedented revolt from grassroots members, after a meeting of the BMA's largest regional branch passed an overwhelming ‘vote of no confidence' in his handling of opposition to the health bill.
A motion proposing ‘a vote of censure' in the BMA chair for his failure to promote members' views and campaign for the withdrawal of the bill was backed by 100 of the 110 doctors attending BMA London's AGM on Wednesday. GPs attending the meeting told Pulse that the move to formally censure Dr Meldrum represented ‘a vote of no confidence' in his leadership in opposing the reforms.
The motion also called for the BMA to launch a 'huge campaign' to get the bill withdrawn after doctors accused the BMA Council of failing to deliver on its mandate to mount a public campaign for the reforms to be scrapped. Doctors at the meeting claimed Dr Meldrum had ‘undermined' calls for the reforms to be scrapped by co-signing a letter to the Times which called for ‘further significant amendments' to the reforms rather than the bill's outright withdrawal.
The deep hostility from members in the capital puts Dr Meldrum under intense pressure as the association prepares to lobby peers to make further amendments to the bill. The revolt from BMA London marks the first time any BMA branch has issued a vote of no confidence in Dr Meldrum's leadership, and the first time BMA London has ever censured any BMA chair.
Dr Meldrum's predecessor as BMA chair, Dr James Johnson, was forced to resign in 2007 after members accused him of failing to represent their views over the MTAS scandal.
Dr Kevin O'Kane, chair of BMA London, told Pulse: ‘The motion of censure clearly shows London's doctors are not happy with the council for failing to fulfil its mandate and effectively campaign for the bill's withdrawal. There is anger that the message that this bill should be withdrawn is not being pushed hard enough by the BMA Council and its leaders.'
‘Council is undermining opposition to the bill by signing letters to the media about amendments rather than withdrawal. This bill is not fit for purpose, it is appalling, and no amount of tinkering will make it right. London's doctors are angry and they are not out on their own on this one. We are reflecting the message coming from doctors around the country.'
'At the SRM and the ARM doctors were asked not to pass motions to vote for total opposition to the bill because concessions would be won. The BMA claimed to have achieved concessions following the Future Forum but in my view there hasn't been a single concession. Neither does Andrew Lansley. He told his backbenchers that the bill was very much intact - and he's correct.'
Dr Meldrum was not available for comment. However a BMA spokesperson said:
‘The BMA has undertaken an extensive programme of public activity calling for the bill to be withdrawn. This has included high profile media coverage and an online day of action which saw the NHS trending in the UK's Top 15 issues on Twitter. Our position has been prominently communicated in the media, including a front page national newspaper story.'
‘We remain concerned that the legislation presents unacceptable risks to the NHS and will continue to call for its withdrawal. The BMA will continue to communicate its concerns to politicians, other organisations and the public until the bill is withdrawn or at the very least significantly amended, in line with the policies of the ARM and Council.
‘We continue to engage with all our members on this important issue, including seeking their views on the bill.'
In full: the BMA London motion
‘The BMA has been mandated by the SRM in March and the ARM in June to call for withdrawal of the Health and Social Care Bill. Council took this forward on the 20 July with a vote to start a public campaign for withdrawal of the bill. This meeting therefore:
1) Mandates the BMA leadership to mount a huge public campaign for withdrawal of the bill;
2) Proposes a vote of censure in the chairman of council for not promoting our views for withdrawal of the bill.'