Doctors have rejected the government’s revised NHS plans, urging their union to take a tougher stance. Delegates at the annual British Medical Association conference voted in favour of calling for the Health and Social Care Bill to be withdrawn by 59%. The union initially welcomed concessions by ministers this month on competition and patient choice. But doctors at the Cardiff meeting said it was time to keep pushing the government “further and harder”.
The plans involve opening up the health service to greater competition and giving GPs a lead role in spending the NHS budget. Amid mounting criticisms the government put the changes on hold in April. Two weeks ago ministers attempted to appease opponents by watering down certain aspects of the plans. But delegates at the BMA said they were still not satisfied – despite pleas by BMA leader Dr Hamish Meldrum not to vote in favour of a series of critical motions.
It is the second time the BMA has called for the bill to be withdrawn. In an emergency meeting in March doctors voted in favour of it being withdrawn, but their attitude softened when the concessions were published, with the union’s leaders indicating they were willing to work with ministers to get the bill right. That stance will now harden following the conference vote. In fact, Dr Meldrum is likely to convey the message when he gives evidence to the House of Common’s bill committee about the reform programme.