The British Medical Association leadership has defended its engagement with the government’s health reforms after criticism from some members, but says it will be “stepping up” its lobbying.

A letter from Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair of council, and Laurence Buckman, GP committee chair, was published today in the British Medical Journal.

It follows an open letter to Dr Meldrum and the GPC, signed by a BMA council member and more than 100 members, criticising their engagement with the policy, and calling on them to “mobilise the power of the profession and stop these damaging reforms”. That was published in the BMJ on Tuesday.

Responding today, Dr Meldrum and Dr Buckman say: “The BMA’s position on the government’s plans is rooted in policies agreed through our democratic processes, shaped by ongoing feedback and consultation with members, and following several debates on the issue, endorsed by a large majority of its elected council.”

Responding to the call to stop engaging with the reforms, they say: “By turning our back on the reform process now there is a danger that the changes continue but without the professional leadership that is so vital to ensure the highest standards of care for patients…

“The consequences of not being involved would be far more damaging to the NHS we are seeking to protect and preserve.”

However, the letter also says: “The BMA has no intention of ceasing its pressure on government to reconsider its position on the areas of most concern to the profession and patients, and we will be stepping up our lobbying and member engagement activities once the [health] bill has been published and during its passage through Parliament.”