The British Medical Association’s ruling council today voted to begin a public campaign for the withdrawal of the Health Bill.

The governing body also carried a motion saying it “rejects the idea that the government’s proposed changes to the bill will significantly reduce the risk of further marketisation and privatisation”.

Motions which say the BMA “recognises the medical profession’s lack of support for the [bill]” and “agrees that the government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be ‘no privatisation of the NHS” were also carried.

At the BMA’s annual representative meeting last month, union representatives voted in favour of continuing to call for withdrawal of the bill. A subsequent motion which called for “the BMA to oppose the health and social care bill in its entirety” was defeated.

At the ARM the chair of the council, Hamish Meldrum, spoke in opposition to both those motions. He has argued the government’s changes signficant and “more than a respray job”.

Today’s motions were proposed by council members Dr Jacky Davis and Dr Clive Peedell, outspoken opponents of the reforms. However, a further motion for the BMA “to ballot the membership with regard to the BMA taking a position of opposing the bill, rather than critical engagement” was defeated.

Dr Peedell told HSJ it was the first time the organisation had commited to action over the Bill.

Dr Meldrum said in a statement following the vote: “Whilst the BMA recognises there have been some changes following the listening pause, there is widespread feeling that the proposed legislation is hopelessly complex, and it really would be better if the bill were withdrawn.

“We will continue to critically engage with government and with the parliamentary process to try to achieve this, whilst continuing to seek further amendments to the bill,” he said.

Labour said it was evidence of continuing opposition to the government’s reforms, even after the government had announced changes to its plans.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said in a statement: “Despite [prime minister] David Cameron’s promises, his Health Bill changes are a bureaucratic mess, not a proper plan for improving patient care.

“Now people are realising that despite the ‘pause’, the wasteful and unnecessary reorganisation is going ahead and the long term Tory plans to break up the NHS remain intact,” he added.