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BMA shelves UK-wide 'anti GP-bashing' campaign

By Gareth Iacobucci

The BMA has put its campaign against Government reforms to general practice on ice pending the results of tendering for GP-led health centres.

GP leaders had originally said ‘phase two' of its campaign would be extended to combat anti-GP spin across the UK, after the first phase had focused on polyclinics and the march of the private sector in England.

But Dr Beth McCarron Nash, GPC negotiator and leader of the Support Your Surgery campaign, told Pulse the BMA would now wait to see how successful GP bids were at holding off the advances of the private sector.

The decision to hold off on the next phase – which was due to match the £300,000 expenditure on phase one – follows the news GPs have been successful at winning tenders for centres so far, despite vast numbers of private sector bids.

But the move has attracted criticism from some LMCs, who wanted a more forceful and proactive defence of traditional general practice to build on the success of the first phase, which attracted the backing of 1.3 million patients.

The GPC has circulated a poster to surgeries thanking patients for their support, but is otherwise holding fire amid claims from the leadership that there has been a private sector retreat from general practice in the face of the global financial meltdown.

Dr McCarron Nash, a GP in Honiton Devon, said: ‘We're going to wait and see what happens with the procurements, and whether it's local GPs who have got those, or corporate companies.

‘The credit crunch will have an impact. I have heard anecdotally that there are numerous occasions where commercial companies have withdrawn because of the current climate. ‘

However, some LMCs have expressed disappointment at the GPC's change of tack, which comes as negotiations continue over next years pay deal.

Gloucestershire LMC noted that phase two of the campaign had been ‘much lower profile due to a lack of money'.

Mr Mike Forster, LMC Secretary said: ‘The first campaign was a very good one, and had a nice noticeable ending. It is less clear what the aims of the second phase is.

Dr Eric Wilkinson, a GP in Southborne, West Sussex, said: ‘I'm disappointed. Is the lack of action undermining general practice by not banging the drum?'

BMA is putting second phase of campaign on ice until results of tenders for GP-led health centres come through BMA is putting second phase of campaign on ice until results of tenders for GP-led health centres come through LMC goes it alone

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC launched it's own "Save my GP" campaign in September and has since received more than 100,000 signatures.

LMC Chief executive Peter Graves said the campaign had generated ‘well over double' the response locally to the BMA's campaign.

Practices received leaflets, posters and petition materials, while press releases were sent to local TV, radio and newspapers to ensure they got much publicity as possible.

The LMC said the aim was to bring 'the slow but insidious influx of large national and multi-national corporations taking over GP practices back on to the local agenda'.
It added that it hoped to 'make patients realise that this isn't just something happening elsewhere; it is happening on their doorsteps and their practice is under threat.'

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