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BMA 'must adopt tougher PR stance'

A GP at the heart of the BMA's softly-softly PR campaign is calling for a much harder hitting strategy by the association and in particular the GPC to counter Government spin.

BMA council member Dr Kailash Chand, a GP in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, said the association should launch a centrally funded and organised campaign that would see full-page advertisements in national papers and TV commercials.

‘I'm telling the GPC and BMA that we should have leaflets, advertisements in newspapers, even on television. Only increased awareness will halt this, otherwise over the next five to 10 years we will sleepwalk into a future with no traditional general practices,' said Dr Chand, who said the profession must act now to tackle the ‘Government's hidden agenda'.

Dr Chand is among GPs to have taken part in a GPC-led strategy to raise public awareness of the value of traditional general practices. He was featured in his local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, about his daily routine. He has also appeared on chat shows for the Manchester regional broadcaster, Channel M.

In the summer the BMA released a poster campaign in surgeries, depicting a day in the life of Salisbury GP Dr Helena Mckeown, which aimed to humanise doctors. Dr Mckeown said: ‘It was to show patients that we're not nine-to-fivers, or fat cats earning an average of £100,000 for doing nothing and just playing golf all afternoon.'

But she admitted many practises did not bother putting up the posters. ‘Where they were put up they have been very well received. I have received emails from practices a long way away from me, but some facilities decided not to use them.'

Dr Chand said that given that one press conference from health minister Alan Johnson could change patients' attitude in a day, the BMA must do more to raise its profile: ‘We have to focus every sentence, every full stop, to combat their agenda.'

The BMA said it finds it hard to get national, even regional, newspapers interested in its cause. A spokesperson said: ‘We haven't just woken up to the idea that we have to protect the value of general practice, it's an ongoing thing. From time to time we've looked at almost every option we can think of.'

But one of the UK's leading brand experts said he believed the BMA lagged far behind other organisations of its kind in getting its message across.

Lucian Camp, chair of advertising agency cchm:ping, said: ‘Considering the BMA's size and the number of members it represents, it seems disproportionately low profile. It keeps its head down more than other professional bodies.

‘A generation ago we all agreed on two things – we love the BBC and we love our GPs. I'm not so sure we do anymore. The question is how hard is the BMA ready to work to manage its reputation as an intelligent, customer-friendly flagship for the medical profession?'

Dr Kailash Chand: 'Danger of sleepwalking into a future where there's no general practice' Dr Kailash Chand

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