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How the newspapers have covered the contract war

Pulse takes a look at how the national papers have been covering GPs' dispute with the Government and finds out it is not all bad news.

By Steve Nowottny

Pulse takes a look at how the national papers have been covering GPs' dispute with the Government and finds out it is not all bad news.

So yesterday was the day the extended opening hours debate finally erupted onto the front pages and into the national consciousness.

Alan Johnson's letter to GPs prompted a raft of headlines in the national press and heated debates on the airwaves. But whereas last year the papers took a uniformly anti-GP line, this time round it seems to be a somewhat fairer fight.

First, the bad news. The Mirror was all too quick to mention GPs 'raking in 113000 a year', and its editorial (‘their moans about being asked to put in a few hours extra per week should be given short shrift') was even worse. And from the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Spectator's columnist Stephen Pollard accused the BMA of 'doing its usual'.

But elsewhere it wasn't so bad, with most papers taking a relatively neutral stance, simply reporting the disagreement between the Government and the BMA. The Daily Express ran a full page on 'Labour War With GPs', the Guardian went with 'GPs in standoff with Government' and even the Sun, while it couldn't resist repeating the £113,000 figure, used 'GPs' fury at longer hours bid'.

The Daily Telegraph's story left us scratching our heads. Online, it was simply 'Alan Johnson and GPs clash over hours'. But look at the print edition today, and the front page warns ‘GPs could quit NHS and charge you £25'. Which sounds just a teensy bit similar to the story Pulse broke two weeks ago, which received national coverage – including in the Telegraph. Did it improve with age? Or just so good they had to run it twice?

But elsewhere, there was much to hearten GPs in the Telegraph. Today's leader warns the Government that ‘the public will instinctively be more sympathetic to their family doctors'. And Dr Michael Ingram, a GP in Hertfordshire, is given a column to explain how the 'Government plans to abolish family doctors'.

The BMA spin machine finally appears to be gaining some traction. No knockout blow for either side, but on another difficult day for GPs, they should be happy to settle for a score draw.

UPDATE: Also worthy of mention is a comment piece by London GP Dr Ann Robinson in the Guardian, 'Privatisation by stealth', which has ignited a somewhat heated debate. 73 comments and counting...

GP dispute hits the headlines GP dispute hits the headlines

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