BMA accused of double standards over wine voucher

Voucher sent out to doctors 'at odds' with policy on alcohol. Picture: Contributed
Voucher sent out to doctors 'at odds' with policy on alcohol. Picture: Contributed
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BRITISH Medical Association members are being offered cut price alcohol deals in a journal owned by the organisation, despite it publicly stating that it had scrapped its controversial ties to a wine club that sold doctors cheap drink.

Scotland on Sunday has learned that BMA members received a £60 voucher for the Naked Wines company in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) – the publication that is paid for by the group that represents the UK’s medical profession.

‘I’m sure that doctors enjoy a good drink as much as the rest of us’

MSP Murdo Fraser

BMA members have expressed anger about the move, with one stating that it was “double standards” and not consistent with the body’s decision to end its relationship with the Charles Hastings Wine Club, amid concerns it was at odds with its support for minimum pricing.

Last year the BMA formally dissolved its links with the club and said the cheap drink deals supplied by Tanners Wines merchants would no longer be promoted by the professional body for doctors.

However, alcohol vouchers from another supplier – Naked Wines – were included in last week’s BMJ. The publication is mailed to everyone in the BMA as part of their membership package.

A BMA source said that a “number of doctors have queried this decision to send them cheap wine deals from a rival supplier after making such a fuss about the links with the Charles Hastings Wine club.

“There are also members who are annoyed about these flyers offering cheap wine, as it could lead to suggestions of double standards and it makes the decision taken last year look a bit pointless”, the BMA source said.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser called for the BMA to show more “consistency” and said it was a “little hypocritical” to promote cheap alcohol on the quiet, after stating publicly it had stopped doing so following the row over minimum pricing.

Fraser said: “I’m sure that doctors enjoy a good drink as much as the rest of us, but there does seem to be something slightly hypocritical about the BMA preaching in support of the minimum pricing of alcohol and lecturing everyone about alcohol consumption, when their own magazine pushes discounted wine to its readers.

“Perhaps a little more consistency of message is required.”

Independent MSP John Wilson warned that the continual promotion of discounted alcohol deals to doctors could weaken the case for minimum pricing of alcohol, which is a flagship Scottish Government policy.

Wilson, who supports minimum pricing, said: “Organisations and publications have to be careful what they are seen to be promoting, especially in relation to the campaign on minimum pricing.

“Including offers for cheap wine in a mailing to BMA members suggests to me that the BMA and any publication associated with it needs to be aware of the accusation of hypocrisy in relation to minimum pricing.

“The BMA has to ensure that it follows through on the issue and provides a consistent message to the public about alcohol.”

A spokeswoman from BMA Scotland said decisions over the content of the BMJ were taken by the management of the publication, but stated that the professional body remained supportive of tighter rules for alcohol sales.

The BMA spokeswoman said: “That’s a publication owned by the BMA, but every decision is taken by the editorial board of the BMJ. The BMJ publishing organisation makes the decisions.

“The BMA would like to see greater regulation over the control of alcohol products.”

The BMJ website states that it follows guidelines on accepting adverts “to ensure we do business in keeping with BMJ values”.

A spokeswoman from The BMJ, defending sending the cheap wine voucher to BMA members, said: “We accept advertisements that are legal, decent and honest, except those for tobacco products.”

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