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GPC chair contenders set out stall

The election of a new GPC chair looks set to turn into a debate about whether the organisation should adopt a more combative approach in negotiations with the Government.

Nominations close on 9 July in the contest to find a replacement for Dr Hamish Meldrum, following his election as BMA chair, and differences have already emerged between the candidates.

GPC negotiator Dr Andrew Dearden, a GP in Cardiff, promised a new approach if he was elected. He said: 'What's happened in the past is that we've striven to be co-operative and principled and we've tried to work with the Government and NHS employers, perhaps when it's obvious they don't want to work with us. 'I don't seek confrontation but I'm not afraid of it.'

However, another frontrunner, GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds, promised to bring continuity if he was elected. 'Hamish has been an excellent leader and has certainly led with great dignity and clarity and has been exactly what the profession has needed,' he said. 'I think someone following in his footsteps is what we need right now.'

The candidates include two GP leaders known for their strong attacks on the Government: Dr Laurence Buckman, deputy GPC chair, and Dr Peter Holden, fellow GPC negotiator and a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire. Dr Buckman confirmed he was standing but said he would not comment further until next week. In the past he has campaigned for a more 'crusading' GPC.

Dr Holden said he expected to throw his hat into the ring, adding: 'We're looking for a leader of a team. It's not about a personal manifesto. 'Other possible candidates as Pulse went to press included GPC member Dr Eric Rose, a veteran GP from Milton Keynes and joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, and GPC negotiator Dr Stewart Drage. Whoever is elected by their fellow GPC members in a first-past-the-post vote on 19 July will come under intense pressure to ensure GPs don't face a pay freeze for a third successive year.

Dr John Canning, a GPC member and a GP in Middlesbrough, said there would be widespread resentment among GPs otherwise. GPC member Dr George Rae, a GP in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, said: 'There have been two successive pay cuts and we need a GPC chair who can convey this strength of feeling bubbling up in the profession. If there is another year with a pay cut the profession will be very angry indeed.'

Dr Gillian Beck, a GP in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and former GPC member, said: 'We have a Government hellbent on breaking up the NHS. The GPC must stand square behind singlehanded and small practices, which do not have the resources to compete for APMS contracts.'

GPC member Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, who is set to stand as a negotiator, called for the new chair to fight plans to extend opening hours. 'I do not think that extending opening hours needs to be a given,' he said.

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