The British Medical Association has voted not to reject the entire health bill in a secret ballot.

More than half of delegates at an emergency meeting in London today voted against a motion “to oppose the bill in its entirety”.

Fifty four per cent voted against the motion, 44 per cent voted in favour and 2 per cent abstained.

Delegates were also asked to vote on whether the BMA’s policy of “critical engagement” with the government had failed.

Fifty four per cent said it had not failed while 43 per cent said it had.

An overwhelming majority – 98 per cent – agreed that the BMA must continue to “publicise and oppose the damaging elements of the bill.

The meeting then called on the BMA to consider what form of action should be taken by the medical profession.

Earlier, delegates were urged to “kill the bill, not the NHS” by those speaking in favour of rejecting the whole bill.

However the meeting also heard the BMA risked alienating thousands of GPs and losing members, if it voted to entirely reject the legislation.

Dr Michelle Drage warned GPs already engaged in the government’s reform programme would feel “alienated” and “disempowered”.

She said she represented 6,000 GPs – 20 per cent of the GP workforce.

“What I know from what my GPs tell me is that most of this is already happening in London and around the country,” she said.

She said opposing the whole bill would not solve problems in the NHS and would see thousands of disaffected doctors defect to the National Association of Primary Care.

Other doctors who spoke against the motion said it would be wrong to reject the bill outright because they were in favour of some of the policies.

“I support the abolition of PCTs, I support the abolition of SHAs, and I support the creation of GP consortia,” said one.