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BMA prepares to call on MPs to derail health bill

The BMA is set to urge MPs to vote against the health bill if its campaign to see the legislation scrapped fails to force changes to the reforms, draft proposals seen by Pulse reveal.

The call, part of a ‘detailed statement' of opposition to the reforms which will be considered by the BMA's political council, is the first indication that the BMA is considering actively advising parliamentarians to derail the revised Health Bill, despite the government's high-profile changes last month. The document, tabled earlier this week at a meeting of the BMA Council, attacks the revised reforms for being ‘excessively complex' and failing to ‘do enough' to improve the NHS.

The proposals state: ‘If there are no further amendments [to the bill], the advice of the BMA to MPs is to vote against the recommitted HSC [Health and Social Care] Bill.'

The plans, which reiterate the BMA's commitment to 'engaging with government', surfaced amid mounting BMA opposition to the health reforms. The organisation's annual representative meeting last month and its special representative meeting in March saw members vote for the revised health bill to be scrapped. Earlier this week the BMA council agreed to launch a public campaign calling for the bill to be withdrawn and signed-off a seven-point statement of opposition to it.

Amid fears over the Bill's promotion of a market-driven NHS, the seven-point statement commits the BMA to opposing ‘any Bill which seeks to break down the NHS family and treat healthcare as a commodity' and calls on the Government to ‘rule out substantial increases in commercial involvement in the NHS'. The BMA points to Department of Education policy that states ‘schools should not make profits' as an example for the NHS to follow.

Earlier this week BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said:‘Whilst the BMA recognises there have been some changes following the listening pause, there is widespread feeling that the proposed legislation is hopelessly complex, and it really would be better if the bill were withdrawn. We will continue to critically engage with Government and with the parliamentary process to try to achieve this, whilst continuing to seek further amendments to the bill.'

Dr Brian Fisher, a GP in Lewisham, south-east London, and chair of the Socialist Health Association, said:‘I welcome the BMA's move to publicly try and stop this bill. The bill could be extremely damaging to the NHS- it achieves none of the things we need to achieve. I hope that this campaign will work with all sections of the NHS, from GPs, to consultants to public health. We all have an interest in improving our NHS.'