The BMA may face legal challenges from private companies if they proceed with a campaign for patients to ask their GP to refer them only to publicly-run NHS services.
The legal issue creates a stumbling block for proposals, first reported in Pulse, that BMA Council was considering a proposal to give patients the option through a ‘pledge card’ blocking their referral to private companies, providing the quality of their care would not be compromised.
BMA Council members say the plans need reworking after legal advice at their meeting earlier this week. A report from the BMA legal department warned the BMA could face legal challenges from private companies if they proceeded with the plans to promote the card to patients.
Dr Clive Peedell, the BMA council member and co-chair of the NHS Consultants’ Association who originally proposed the motion, said it has been sent for further work ‘rather than being kicked entirely into touch’.
He told Pulse: ‘There were concerns there would be potential legal challenges, and we didn’t want to put GPs or the BMA in that situation. I think we need to look at it at a different angle.
‘I’ll still fight for a form of the card. There are lots of ways to do it. It is just getting around some of the legal issues. My feeling is that if it is a patient choice and it has nothing to do with the GP, then there is no issue. But there might be an issue with the card being advertised in the practice – this might interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.’
Another member of BMA Council, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘The legal objections are there. But I would not go as far as to say it has been totally given up. We are still looking at what the best way forward is.
‘It is not the end of it though. We will do what we can.’