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BMA calls for withdrawal of Health Bill

The British Medical Association has demanded the government's Health and Social Care Bill be withdrawn as Nick Clegg announces slow-down of NHS reform

The British Medical Association (BMA) has demanded the government's Health and Social Care Bill be withdrawn or undergo major changes in its response to the ongoing 'listening exercise'.

The body, which represents doctors practicing in the UK, warned that latest feedback from its members indicates there are 'high levels of concern' for the Bill that seeks to abolish primary care trusts and strategic health authorities and place commissioning services in the hands of GPs.

"We are right in the thick of the challenges the NHS faces, and while change is necessary, this major upheaval is not," warned Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, and one of the Bill's most vocal critics.

"Increasing and enforcing competition is not the answer – competition is not an end in itself. Instead, we are putting forward recommendations that aim to maximise the potential for positive change in the proposals, by genuinely giving more say to patients and to clinicians at the front line."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also commented today on the NHS reforms, suggesting an extended delay of the Health Bill.

Speaking to patients and medical health professionals at University College London hospital, he said: "I don't think it would be right for us to hold this listening exercise, to make big changes to the legislation, and then to seek to bounce it through parliament."

"I think it is very important that MPs who are accountable to millions of patients up and down the country have the opportunity to really look at the details that we are proposing and that's why I think we will need to send the bill back to committee."

Responding to Clegg's speech, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA's GPs Committee, said: "It is reassuring that the Deputy Prime Minister recognises the problems created by arbitrary deadlines for change."

"We welcome the signs that the government recognises these concerns, but real evidence of their commitment to listen will not come until we learn more about their plans for the Bill."

The BMA has its full response available for download (PDF). Further information on the body's involvement with the NHS listening exercise – including video web chats with members of the NHS Future Forum to discuss changes to the Bill – is also from the BMA's NHS reform page.

The Department of Health also has more information on the Future Forum.

26th May 2011

From: Healthcare

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