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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Fight to keep the NHS public

I understand the negotiations between the GPC and NHS employers came to a complete standstill when the latter, on the Government's instructions, refused to negotiate further. The Government's stand, of 'accept this or we'll impose something worse', is tantamount to blackmail.

The main issue, therefore, is not the offer on the table, which is close to the GPC's final position, but of the Government's behaviour, and the reasons behind it. The Government has in recent years introduced a series of initiatives to partly replace GPs. NHS Direct, walk-in centres and the handover of out-of-hours responsibility to PCTs all ended up costing more than a conversation with a fully trained GP. And the Government keeps on with the programme. It has recruited Lord Darzi (who may well be an excellent surgeon but has limited experience of NHS work and none in general practice) to promote its next big thing - polyclinics, run by, well, anyone other than GPs.

The vote isn't about a couple of extra hours. It is about standing up to playground bullies. It is about listening to patients, not the CBI. It is about keeping GPs in their communities. It is about using public monies carefully. It is about keeping the NHS public.

If we vote Yes it sends a clear message to the Government. Walk all over us. Remove the MPIG, give us back full out-of-hours. And of course we'll do it from existing monies. And forget about negotiating with the profession - we don't need the GPC.

If we vote No it sends an equally clear message. Get back to the table. We are not inflexible. We know how important we are to the NHS, and we know it couldn't function without us. Equally, we know how important the NHS is to us, and our patients. We want to see the NHS thrive. Help us help it do so.

From Dr Nick Bunting, Boston, Lincolnshire

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