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Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK


PM rounds on doctors

Tony Blair believes the BMA is just protecting its members' interests

Prime Minister Tony Blair has launched an attack on the British Medical Association (BMA) for its opposition to the way the government has introduced the NHS reforms.

BBC Health Correspondent James Westhead: "Mr Blair asked doctors to put aside their opposition in the interest of patients"
On Monday, the association, which is holding its annual meeting in Belfast this week, accused the government of undermining the medical profession by introducing too many reforms and not supporting doctors.

And on Tuesday, junior doctors, who are considering strike action over pay and conditions, rounded on the government.

Mr Blair said that the government's reforms will modernise the NHS and are backed by most doctors and the public.

He said the BMA was just protecting its members, "like any other trade union".

He also highlighted government innovations such as the NHS Direct 24-hour phoneline for patients and drop-in medical centres.

'Majority of doctors support government'

Mr Blair said: "Some doctors' leaders have been highly critical of many of the things that the government has done in the last two years. They are entitled to their views.

"I believe the vast majority of doctors across the country are working with us to improve the health service.

"It is only because of their dedication, talent and efforts - and that of all NHS staff - that we are succeeding in renewing our health service and meeting the needs of patients.

"I understand why the doctors' association is going to say what it says. The BMA, and other professional organisations and trade unions in the NHS, are there to represent and promote the interests of its members.

"I understand that, but the government is there to govern for all the people and in the context of the NHS that means the patients."

Mr Blair's comments come as the BMA prepares to debate such innovations and the government's key NHS policy, reducing waiting lists.

Figures out for May show the number of people waiting for hospital admission has been creeping up in the last two months.

Doctors hit back

[ image: Dr Brian Potter says there has been too much spin]
Dr Brian Potter says there has been too much spin
Dr Brian Potter, the secretary of the Scottish BMA, said doctors had expected Labour to transform the problems of the NHS, but had been disappointed.

He said: "We have had far too much spin, and not enough doctoring.

"Let's get back to the fact that we want to look after each other when we get sick and to have a health service we can be proud of, and not all this nonsense.

"These policy people in Millbank are kids - you would not put these people in charge of your own car, let alone anything else."

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of BMA council, dismissed the suggestion that doctors did not embrace change.

"Change is what medicine is all about, but when we have change we do not go straight into that change, we stop and look, we evaluate and pilot."

Dr Bogle said the government had promised a ten-year programme of change, but instead had attempted to rush.

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