Doctors vote to fight Lansley's NHS reforms

Lansley: Competition in the NHS will be on the basis of quality
Lansley: Competition in the NHS will be on the basis of quality

By Ian Dunt and Alex Stevenson

Doctors have voted overwhelmingly to oppose Andrew Lansley's plans for the NHS at an emergency meeting in central London.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) passed three motions condemning the coalition government's shake-up of the NHS in its first special representative meeting in 19 years.

Mr Lansley's plans to introduce competition and greater freedom to private firms in the NHS was savaged by speaker after speaker and overwhelmingly defeated in a series of votes.

Delegates supported one motion deploring the government's "use of misleading and inaccurate information to denigrate the NHS and justify the health bill".

A second suggested there was no electoral mandate for NHS reform, because Mr Lansley had not raised its possibility before the general election. It was also passed overwhelmingly, although delegates rejected a sub-motion demanding that a referendum be held on the health and social care bill.

The third motion said the proposed changes were "too extreme and too rushed", adding that they would "negatively impact on patient care". Delegates overwhelmingly supported it and voted to have the NHS reform bill withdrawn altogether.

"These proposals could destroy the NHS as we know it," Dr David White warned the conference.

But the meeting was not without its dissidents. Dr John Hyslop was among the minority offering conditional support to Mr Lansley.

"PCTs have failed us," he said. "I say bring it on."

Dr John Canning received a hostile reception when he suggested that doctors should try to change the health bill rather than oppose it outright.

"If someone's trying to strangle you there's only so long you can ask them to use just one hand," Dr Ian Banks responded, to cheers from the hall.

Shadow health secretary John Healey commented: "First the Lib Dems, now the BMA - this is quickly turning into David Cameron's worst NHS week. His damaging plans for the health service are descending into chaos."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "How long can this government go on pretending there is life the halth and social care bill?

"Doctors, nurses, health professionals and NHS staff have all voiced major objections to the bill. Patients, charities and unions are lining up against it and poll after polls shows that the public clearly thinks it is bad news for our health service."

Appearing on BBC News this morning, Mr Lansley argued that he had already taken the BMA's views on board.

"The BMA was worried, they said 'look, we don't want to be in a position' - I understand this - 'where there is any conflict between the price that is payable to a healthcare provider, the services provider and our decision on behalf of our patients'," he said.

"We've amended [the legislation] to make it very clear that at the point, the competition in the NHS will be on the basis of quality."

Coming so soon after the weekend's defeat of the coalition's plans at the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Sheffield, doctors' opposition is heaping pressure on the health secretary.

Cameron and Clegg take stock after Lib Dems reject NHS reforms

Meanwhile, the health secretary was under fire from public health groups after two more bodies walked out of his 'responsibility charter' with business, robbing it of much-needed legitimacy.

Diabetes UK and the British Heart Forum joined six other health groups, which had already quit the project, by saying they could not sign up to the deal.

Health groups say the deals concluded with industry, which were allegedly being agreed as health bodies were invited to the panel, do not include any penalty if the promises are not fulfilled, making them all but meaningless.


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