DOCTORS at the British Medical Association Special Representative Meeting yesterday morning voted unanimously to oppose the government’s Health and Social Care Bill, and demand that it is immediately withdrawn (see page 2).
In the afternoon, there was a battle over the motion that Tory Health Minister Lansley must resign.
Moving the motion on behalf of the London Regional Council, BMA Council member Anna Athow said:
‘Before the election the Tories said cut the deficit, not the NHS.’
She added: ‘Now we see the biggest top-down reorganisation to privatise the NHS.’
She warned: ‘The Bill is being implemented even before it has gone through parliament.
‘PCTs are being closed and consortia are being set up with the participation of private consultants like McKinsey.
‘They are privatising commissioning.’
She went on to warn: ‘Already, £20 billion cuts are being carried out and hospitals are being closed.’
She added: ‘The American-style system that Lansley is bringing in will take us back to the 1930s when you had to pay for care.’
She concluded: ‘We did not vote for this. We have no confidence in you, Mr Lansley, or your business friends.’
Dr Rodney Price, from Yorkshire, said: ‘We should learn from history. The Tories destroyed whole industries and communities, resulting in unemployment.’
He said Lansley would ‘do the same to the NHS, destroy it.’
BMA Council member Dr Ian Banks said: ‘I am very unhappy with the way this has been dealt with. Not with us, but with him.’
He said: ‘The British Medical Association will suffer.’
Banks supported the motion of no confidence in Lansley.
‘’We don’t have to personalise this,’ he told the conference.
Also opposing the motion, Dr John Chisholm said from the floor: ‘Motions of no confidence will have no effect.
‘It’s the policies which are wrong, not who is proposing them.’
The BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum called the SRM to oppose the motion, saying: ‘What’s important is policy not personalities.’
He added: ‘On a practical level, you have just mandated us to negotiate. Who will we negotiate with if Lansley goes?’
He said that if Lansley went, he would just be replaced by someone else.
In her right of reply, Anna Athow said: ‘This government is committed to giving huge contracts to private companies.
‘The Bill is to destroy the NHS.
‘Lansley said he will not listen and will not take any amendments.
‘We have no confidence in him as the author of privatisation.’
The motion went to a secret electronic ballot of the delegates at the SRM, with 39 per cent in favour of the motion and 56 per cent against. Five per cent abstained.
Conference passed Motion 175 which ‘calls on the BMA to publicise and oppose the damaging elements of the Bill’ and called for the BMA ‘to consider what form of action should be taken by the medical profession’.
Dr Jackie Davis moved Motion 175 on behalf of the Agenda Committee.
She said: ‘This Bill is about the privatisation of the NHS.
‘If it goes through, it will be doing something that nobody wanted. Market forces will decide. It simply beggars belief.’
She added: ‘Now it’s being rushed through parliament without any of the amendments we called for.
‘None of the things we voted for today will go through.
‘But we have the power because we are professionals.
‘Our patients trust us. Don’t let us betray our patients today.
‘The Bill will destroy the NHS. We have the power and we have the moral responsibility to oppose this Bill.
‘Please support this motion.’
Also supporting the motion, Dr Krishna Sivakumaran, from the Medical Students Conference, said the BMA needed to send a clear message of opposition to the government’s Bill ‘or they will ignore us’.
Moving the motion of the Agenda Committee, Motion 112 on the government’s planned NHS Commissioning Board, Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The Health Bill gives sweeping powers to the National Commissioning Board and GPs will be mere puppets.’
Dr Sally Nelson backed the motion and said: ‘It’s very dubious how the Board will balance its roles of commissioning and monitoring.’
The motion was overwhelmingly supported.
Motion 92 from the Agenda Committee was also passed.
It said: ‘This meeting believes that successful and effective commissioning can only occur through close collaboration between General Practitioners, hospital doctors and public health doctors.’
The motion was carried, but BMA Council member Anna Athow spoke against, pointing out: ‘The purchaser-provider split was brought in to favour the private sector.
‘Under the Health and Social Care Bill, GPs will not decide. Commissioning will be carried out by private companies who will commission private care.
‘Clinicians should not be involved in this commissioning. It’s a confidence trick.
‘I oppose the motion, although I understand its sentiments.’
Dr Alex Macherianakis, from the BMA’s Birmingham division, said in the debate: ‘We don’t want private companies. We should not support commissioning.’