REPEAL THE HEALTH ACT! – BMA delegates reject leader’s advice to quit fight

MPs, councillors and local residents demonstrated yesterday in Westminster to oppose the closure of the  A&Es in four West London hospitals – Ealing, Central Middlesex, Hammersmith and Charing Cross
MPs, councillors and local residents demonstrated yesterday in Westminster to oppose the closure of the A&Es in four West London hospitals – Ealing, Central Middlesex, Hammersmith and Charing Cross

DELEGATES to the British Medical Association (BMA) Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth yesterday voted for a ‘campaign by the BMA to repeal the Health and Social Care Act’.

The conference voted against the recommendation of BMA Chairman Hamish Meldrum to oppose the amendment to motion 102 on the Health and Social Care Act.

Moving motion 102, Dr Lucy-Jane Davis from Bristol introduced the amendment from Jackie Davis from the BMA council.

This was clause vIII calling for ‘a campaign by the BMA to repeal the Health and Social Care Act.’

Dr Lucy-Jane Davis told the meeting: ‘These reforms open the NHS to catastrophic market failure in a financial straight jacket.

‘The Act gives any qualified provider the freedom to undercut NHS providers.

‘The government has refused to publish the risk register, I ask Andrew Lansley “What are you hiding”?’

She added: ‘These reforms are destabilising and will create a three-tier system – beneficial for the wealthy, difficult for those who can afford it and unavailable for the most vulnerable.’

The Chair refused to take any more speakers saying that there had already been a long debate on the Health and Social Care Act.

Giving his advice on the motion, BMA Chair Meldrum urged representatives to vote against clause vIII, saying: ‘I wonder if we can continue to fight yesterday’s battles.’

He added: ‘Repealing the Act would mean another NHS upheaval, do you really want that?’

He claimed that no parliamentary parties had the will to repeal the Act.’

Replying to his advice mover Lucy-Jane Davis said: ‘I have heard that Labour now accepts that they need to repeal the Act’, she stressed that ‘the reason we need to campaign is that there is no use saying that there isn’t a will. We need to make the will, we need to make it happen.’

In his retirement speech to conference earlier, Meldrum had said: ‘Like it or not, we live in a parliamentary democracy where the politicians that the country elects make the decisions.

‘And if enough people in the country do not like the decisions that are made, they kick them out and elect someone else.

‘The BMA must continue to work with and within that democratic process, otherwise we will lose both credibility and influence.’

He added: ‘And now, rather than engaging in recrimination, in internal wrangling and surmising what might have been, we must re-group and re-focus our strategy and our policies and make sure that the NHS not only survives but flourishes and provides high quality care for all.’

He said: ‘I do not buy the charge that the passing of the Act means the beginning of the end for the NHS.’

The meeting also passed motions condemning the £20 billion ‘efficiency savings’, ‘NHS rationing’ and expressing concerns about Clinical Commissioning Groups and privatisation.

The meeting overwhelmingly voted for Motion 18 against ‘the current programme of cuts, redundancies and enforced reconfiguration of clinical services’ it stressed these were leading to ‘the risk of hospital closures’ and demanded ‘the BMA must oppose these changes when they are imposed purely for financial reasons.’

Moving Motion 18, Mr Tomas Rosenbaum from London, said: ‘Cuts and re-configuration are taking place with breathtaking speed in west London.

‘Ealing hospital A&E faces closure.’

He warned: ‘on the altar of cuts and re-configuration our hospital will be sacrificed’.

He said that already 500 patients ‘are being transferred. They are being given no choice.’

He concluded: ‘This amounts to a demolition process with no concern for consultants or patients.

‘Of course there is a risk to care. The BMA must oppose these changes when they are being imposed for purely financial reasons.

‘We have a duty to stand up for our patients.’

Speaking against the Motion, Dr Anne Thorpe, from the consultants’ committee said: ‘I have great sympathy with the sentiments of the Motion, but I can’t agree that services are less quality if they are re-configured.

‘Medical maybe, less convenient geographically, but that does not mean that it is of lesser quality.’

She claimed: ‘Saving money is not the only reason for re-configuration’ and called on the meeting to reject clause 5 of the motion which says the BMA must oppose changes that are for purely financial reasons, saying: ‘We cannot have the NHS backed into a corner over this.’

Supporting the Motion, Dr Om Aggerwal from the GPs’ committee warned: ‘What is happening in Ealing is happening all over the UK, it is happening in Wales where I practice.

‘Cuts in beds are seeing patients treated on trolleys. We do need adequate beds so that we can provide adequate care.’

In his advice on the motion BMA Chair Meldrum said: ‘We know in some places that these changes are taking place for the wrong reasons.

‘The Motion does not say no re-configuration, but says not for purely financial reasons.

‘I have no problem with all these parts.’

The Motion was overwhelmingly carried.

Later in the debate a call for the BMA to ballot its members to boycott Clinical Commissioning Groups was lost after warnings from the Chair and two others that if doctors walked away it would open up the road for privateers.

There was also a ruling taken from the BMA Treasurer who warned that the call for a ballot required a two-thirds majority vote in light of the costs.