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The News Line: Feature ‘We need to push them to repeal Health Act!’
A BMA rally on June 21 outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel during their day of strike action in defence of pensions
THERE was a lively fringe meeting on the first evening of the BMA Conference in Bournemouth on Monday, organised by the All Trades Unions Alliance.

Speakers included four of the ‘BMA Five’ Council members, who had carried out a struggle for the BMA to organise a public campaign against the Health and Social Care Act.

Mrs Anna Athow outlined the details of their 18-month battle – first to insist that the BMA organise a Special Representative Meeting so that the members could discuss the Bill, and second that the BMA’s policy of ‘critical engagement’ with government be dropped.

Although the BMA changed its policy in November 2011 to oppose the whole Health Bill, this was a verbal change, and there never was a public campaign against it.

She accused the BMA leadership of betraying their members and the public, when, if they had launched a campaign from day one, it would have had a huge impact and helped mobilise  other unions and the public to defeat the Bill.

Paul Hobday, a GP from Kent, spoke about how shocked he was that in a democracy such a bill to destroy the NHS could happen.

He described the way they brought in the Bill as  ‘implementation, then legislation then consultation and totally undemocratic.’

He had proposed a motion at the Conference of Local Medical Committees (LMCs) in May, where he suggested that the BMA had woken up to the malignant effects of this Bill, too late.

He said ‘Clinical Commissioning Groups are writing gagging clauses. The BMA should have led the opposition. Of course the fight for decent pensions is linked to the defence of the NHS, as private companies do not want to pay proper pensions.

‘This morning we voted for vested interest to be exposed. The NHS has been invaded by a privatisation task force. We are resistance fighters.

‘We need to blow up a few of their schemes.

‘We voted today to repeal the Health Act. They advised against this. They lost. I am worried about the next generation.’

David Wrigley, GP and Council member and also in MPU/Unite, said ‘We put up a brilliant fight against the Act. We made a valiant attempt on BMA Council. It was not till November 2011 that we got a turning point. – which was far too late and it changed the situation. But a public campaign did not happen.

‘We set up a website so that grass roots doctors could contact their Royal Colleges and request extraordinary meetings.

‘10,000 doctors responded to our surveys. One by one almost all the colleges passed motions opposed to the Bill. I had to speak out at the LMC conference about the way the BMA leadership was not as proactive as it should have been.

‘I had to do that. I’m a member of the Labour Party. We need to push them to repeal the Act. We must continue campaigning. We are setting up a website to log the changes that are occurring and pin them on the Tories.’

Clive Peedell said there were three main things that got him involved in politics and the BMA.

‘The first was Modernising Medical Careers, which was about deprofessionalisation and cheapening training to tick box competencies.

‘The BMA is a bit like a supertanker, very hard to change course.

‘The “BMA Five” gave it our everything to change direction. It does not want to be seen as a radical organisation. It did not oppose the Act. We do need action.

‘There was a motion passed in the conference today to repeal the Health Act. We do need a political party. – to challenge coalition MPs and Blairites and tackle the New Labour agenda.

‘We are setting up the NHS Action Party.’

Dr Phillip Howard, a Consultant from St Heliers Hospital, said: ‘The Bill is a monumental piece of legislation, which will result in a tsunami of changes.

‘Part 3 brings free trade, competition, corporation and EU law, which has no part in the lexicon of any doctor. It is about commissioning.

‘The NHS provided care according to clinical need, free at the point of use and funded by taxation. This nationally provided clinical service with training, teaching and research is all to go.

‘Multinationals will understand contract law.

‘Look at Chase Farm, King Georges in East London and Epsom and St Heliers. These are litmus tests as to what is happening to our NHS.
‘They now say our trust has a deficit of £48m and we have to save 12% of the budget over the next two years!
‘They are consulting on removing an A&E, a maternity unit and two paediatric departments in SW London.
‘St Heliers has 16,000 admissions per year, St Georges 19,000, and Kingston 14,000. How can we get rid of an A&E?

‘With a great deal of determination and the joint action of Unison and the BMA we managed to prevent job losses of 46 whole time equivalents. The staff, secretaries, ward clerks and receptions firmly believe in providing proper service to patients.

Dr Jacky Davis said: ‘We had a fantastic fight over the Health Bill. To have to fight your own union leadership is shameful. We watched them do absolutely nothing for 18 months. People do not know what has gone on.

‘Last Saturday there was a packed meeting at Friends House Euston. We have produced postcards for patients so that they can tell their GP that they do not want to be referred to the private sector. We have to believe we can do something about this.’

Stuart Eames representing the WRP, said ‘We need to bring this government down. This is not a strong government. It is desperate to serve big business and banking. This is the death agony of capitalism. Their aim is to make the working class bear the brunt of this economic crisis.

‘The BMA leaders and the Unison leaders agree with capitalism and help to keep it going.

‘The District General Hospitals get in the way of the privateers, and therefore they want to sweep them away.

‘Their ploy is to start with A&E, Paediatrics and Maternity.

‘The North East London Council of Action has organised a daily picket of Chase Farm, to prepare for occupation to keep the hospital open.

‘A physical fight is in front.  It’s not a question of protesting. The CCGs should be boycotted.

‘The issue is building a fighting leadership in every union.

‘They plan to smash national agreements and bring in local pay. Doctors are going to be treated like dirt.

‘This government has to be brought down and a workers government instituted to carry out socialist policies, nationalise the economy and cancel the debts. If we do not get rid of capitalism, it will descend into barbarism.’
 
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