A FIERY and chaotic debate took place at the BMA Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) on Labour’s health policy yesterday.
At it the ARM representatives strongly reasserted their support for the pro-NHS, anti-privatisation resolutions that they passed on Monday.
Consultant radiologist, Dr Ellie O’Sullivan moved that the preamble to the policy statement, presented from the leadership to the conference, be scrapped.
She moved it be replaced by: ‘The medical profession is dismayed by the incoherence of current government policies and the damage they have caused to the NHS and the delivery of patient care.
‘The BMA actively opposes the government plan and restates its belief in the core values of the NHS which can and should be 1) Free at the point of use 2) Ethically rationed by clinical priority without discriminatory values 3) Equitably resourced 4) Funded out of general taxation and 5) That these fundamental values cannot be maintained if the NHS is broken up and tendered to private corporations.’
Reps also voted overwhelmingly that there must be ‘no further involvement of the commercial private sector’ in the NHS. And that the BMA will have a ‘campaign to restore an integrated publicly provided health service in England’.
Speaking on the motion as to what form of action the BMA should take, Mrs Anna Athow, consultant surgeon, said: ‘the BMA should call a national day of action to defend the NHS, to restore the funding cuts, to oppose the privatisation reforms, to stop the redundancies.
‘We should call for support from other health service unions. We should call for supportive industrial action by TUC affiliated unions. If doctors organise such a day of action the public would realise what a huge crisis the NHS is facing and would mobilise in our support as they have already started to do in campaigns to save their local hospitals.
‘The events in France show how trade union action can change things. This government does not have the right to destroy our NHS, we have to defeat this government.’
The motion got the support of a substantial minority but wasn’t passed.
The BMA leadership however, insisted they would be taking a ‘shopping list’ of 47 demands – which there was no time to discuss at conference – to their meeting with health secretary Patricia Hewitt next week.