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Gold, incentives and meh

GPC chair in running as race to head BMA starts

The race to take the helm of the BMA began this week amid calls for the organisation to take a far stronger campaigning stance on behalf of its members.

The dramatic resignation of the organisation's chair, Mr James Johnson, has sparked an election battle which GPs said would be crucial in winning back the hearts and minds of grassroots members.

His departure comes after a letter he wrote to The Times caused outrage among junior doctors who saw it as siding with the Government over the MTAS fiasco. Senior members of the GPC said he had lost touch with the BMA rank and file.'

The BMA represents all doctors across the country and its leader must build their confidence,' said Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator.

'Mr Johnson's letter went that little bit further than the membership wanted and when you are out of step with your members you must consider whether your position is viable.'

Dr George Rae, who stood against Mr Johnson for election in 2006, said: 'We have had a highly charged situation since the last annual meeting when doctors expressed no confidence in the way the BMA was conducting policy. This letter was like lancing a boil.'

As Pulse went to press there were two confirmed contenders for the position – Dr Sam Everington, BMA deputy chair, and Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair.

But no nominations will be officially declared until Mr Johnson formally steps down this week. The BMA expects more candidates to come forward. Another name being touted is Dr John Chisholm, former chair of the GPC.

Influential members of the GPC have said a new leader must be able to unify the disparate voices and crafts of the medical profession and take a strong stand for doctors in the face of a series of Government policies, including MTAS and issues such as stalled GP pay negotiations, pressure on GPs to extend surgery hours and the rollout of the electronic care record.'

A new leader must be able to unite the profession against what the Government has done to the health service and in particular champion our junior colleagues regarding MTAS which has been appalling,' said Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair.

'The health service is fragmenting. A new leader must be able to communicate with its members and pull the associations together to provide a strong public face,' said Dr Rae, who has not decided whether to stand.

There is considerable anger among GPs that the BMA has failed to adequately stand up to Government spin on issues such as GPs' income.

'GPs are facing huge issues and these impact on all doctors at the interface between primary and secondary care. A new leader needs a good grasp of that,' said Dr Vautrey.

However, the BMA said an unofficial tradition that the chairmanship rotates between consultants and GPs, which would see a GP enthroned, would not come into play in the election.

The BMA has not decided if elections will take place at the annual representative meeting in five weeks, as planned, or at an emergency council meeting beforehand. Each BMA council member has a single vote.

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