‘HEALTH unions must now do what their members want and organise industrial action to defeat this bill,’ leading BMA member Anna Athow demanded yesterday.
She was speaking as it emerged that this afternoon’s Health Bill ‘summit’ with prime minister Cameron specifically excludes all unions and Royal Medical Colleges which oppose the bill.
Downing Street would not disclose who has been invited to the meeting, with a spokeswoman saying only that ‘a range of national healthcare organisations and clinical commissioning groups’ are attending, including groups from ‘health, social care, voluntary organisations and GPs’. She added: ‘This forms part of the government’s ongoing dialogue with health practitioners about the implementation of these reforms.’
Academy of Royal Colleges chair Sir Neil Douglas wrote to Royal College presidents last Friday, saying: ‘Some of you will have been invited to a meeting with the prime minister on Monday. This is being titled as a meeting to discuss Implementation of the NHS Reforms which would indicate where the government is coming from.’
He added: ‘Just to clarify this is not the meeting between the Colleges and the PM that many of us discussed three weeks ago in BMA house but is a Downing Street initiative. We are not yet clear of the invitation list but it appears to be selective and definitely broader than the Colleges.’
Royal College of GPs chairwoman Clare Gerada confirmed that her organisation – which has been highly critical of the Health Bill – was not invited, saying: ‘Not to invite us. . . I’m very surprised.’
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: ‘It is difficult to understand how the Government believes it can hold a productive meeting on the NHS reforms without representation from the single biggest workforce in the NHS.’
The BMA said: ‘If there is such an event, it would seem odd if the major bodies representing health professionals were not included.’
Unison, which represents 450,000 health workers was not invited to the summit, with Sara Gorton, senior national officer for health, saying: ‘Clearly, Unison has not been invited because David Cameron and Andrew Lansley do not want to hear what we’ve got to say.’
BMA General Council member Anna Athow said: ‘The government has shown, by excluding the BMA and other organisations against the Health Bill from its health summit meeting, that it is determined to press ahead with pushing through this Bill. BMA Council voted on 24th November for “the rapid organisation of a public campaign in opposition” to the Bill, though this was dropped by the hierarchy.
‘The demonstration called by London’s doctors at 5pm on Wednesday 7th March from BMA House to precede the TUC rally against the bill that evening, must become the start of indefinite general strike action by all TUC-affiliated unions to defeat this Health Bill and make this government resign.’