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Buckman speech incites DH fury

By Steve Nowottny

Hostilities between the BMA and the Government have escalated dramatically after GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman pledged to wage an extended guerrilla campaign against key elements of primary care policy.

Dr Buckman's keynote speech to the LMCs conference was interrupted with frequent applause and two standing ovations, as he insisted: ‘The campaign must go on.'

Dr Buckman demanded private companies be barred from running GP practices, and revealed GPs had collected 1.2 million petition signatures from patients in just three weeks, in support of the BMA campaign.

But ministers responded with undisguised contempt, accusing GPs of ‘pressurising' patients to sign a petition based on ‘blatant inaccuracies'.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw – who has written to the BMA to lodge a formal protest (see attachment below) – said: ‘I am not surprised the BMA has collected so many signatures, given the misleading and mendacious nature of its campaign. If I ran a campaign making false claims that something terrible was about to happen, a lot of people would sign my petition too.'

The LMCs conference was dominated by criticism of the Government, as GPs queued up to denounce polyclinics, extended hours and the pay freeze.

LMCs passed a unanimous vote of no confidence over the ‘UK Government's stewardship of the NHS' and defied advice from GPC leaders in demanding the heads of health secretary Alan Johnson and Lord Darzi.

Dr Buckman told Pulse that although ‘the posters should stay up', the BMA campaign would now focus on monitoring and challenging polyclinics and Darzi practice procurements at a local level. ‘It is something every GP has to be involved with,' he said. ‘It will be months and months of work.'

The BMA would encourage patients to raise concerns where necessary with local authorities, to ensure checks on PCT plans, he added.

Dr Buckman urged delegates to vote against the resignation motions, arguing that opposition should focus around policies rather than individuals. ‘We don't do personal,' he said. ‘We can argue with health policy, but the individual is just doing his job – that's all.'

But Dr Eric Rose, a GP in Milton Keynes and proposer of the motion calling for Mr Johnson's resignation, said: ‘Since when has just doing your job been an excuse for bad behaviour?'

Dr Paul Hobday, of Kent LMC, opposed the ‘no confidence' motion – but only on the grounds it did not go far enough. ‘This motion lacks a few choice words – charlatans, unprincipled, conniving,' he said.

What they said

Dr Laurence Buckman, speaking for first time as GPC chair
‘If the Government won't listen to GPs, surely it will listen to 1,236,085 patients who call for a halt to the use of commercial companies in general practice.'

Dr Nev Bradley, Wirral LMC
‘This Government has all the listening capacity of a sprout with blocked grommets.'

Dr Nigel Hyams, Salford & Trafford PCT, proposing a vote of no confidence in GPC leaders
‘Laurence, you have the charisma of Brando, you're our Godfather – but it's time the Government was sleeping with the fishes.'

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, Devon, on the Prime Minister
‘Fewer than one in six wants extended hours. One in six wants to smoke in pubs. One in six wants the death penalty and one in six still think you're doing a good job, Gordon.'

Dr Laurence Buckman: campaign has got under the skin of ministers Dr Laurence Buckman: campaign has got under the skin of ministers Bradshaw's letter - page 1 Bradshaw's letter - page 2 Bradshaw's letter - page 3 Highlights of Dr Buckman's speech

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